With key players Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon out Saturday night, the Boston Celtics were facing a challenge on their back-to-back against the Detroit Pistons. Already without Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari, Boston was carried by the efforts of Grant Williams, Marcus Smart, and Jayson Tatum, as the Celtics pulled off a 117-108 win to bring their win streak to six games.
Marcus Smart was interviewed following a hectic effort against a young Pistons squad, and was asked if the physical matchup was his kind of game. “Yeah, definitely was,” said Smart, “it was chaotic, it was hectic and I strive in those moments, or try to at least. Tonight was a good night, we were very short-handed but like I said before, we had a lot of guys step up. We had Payton Pritchard come in and give us some great minutes, Luke Kornet, Sam Hauser Blake, you know what I’m saying? So, this is a great team effort, but this type of moment, these are type of games, the game that I kind of strive in and I have to put my paw print on, so I did that tonight.”
Smart has been sensational as a ball handler during this stretch of play from Boston, and he did it again against the Pistons with 10 assists on the night. Outside of a rough alley-oop attempt to Jayson Tatum, Smart had done a great job of taking care of possession. “
You’ve got to be on your good behavior after that one,” said Smart, laughing when he got asked about the snafoo. “It’s kind of tough because you’ve got Jayson Tatum screaming off the glass to you, I think anybody that was in my position would probably throw it off the glass to him...so the ball slipped out of his hand, it happens. But I think after that play, you just gotta keep everything simple now. You tried it, it didn’t work, and that’s what we did.”
Smart continued, and said jokingly, “I was mad because I almost didn’t get my 10 assists because of that play, so it almost cost me. But we learned from it, and like I said, I’d still do it again. If Jaylen or Jayson tell me to throw it, especially when we’re having fun. Late in the game, I’m not doing it, but early in the game, try to get them going....after that you’ve got to stay solid and make up for it, and I think we did that.”
Boston has faced early adversity with various injuries, but despite these setbacks, they’ve stayed determined and hyper-focused on playing the right way. “It says a lot,” said Smart of the shorthanded win. “We talk about our resilience all the time, and us being able to be resilient on a back-to-back, playing against a really good team who’s physical. They’re young, they play hard to the buzzer’s end. When you got a team that played as hard as them, they can catch you slipping on a night.”
For a young team like the Detroit Pistons, there’s always going to be room to improve and grow, but their ability to push teams with their physicality will continue to make them a handful for their opponents. For Boston, it was another example of this team’s ability to rally together and pull out wins regardless of the circumstances. “To be able to come out, to understand and be professional,” said Smart of the Celtics. “In the fact that it is a back to back...we are playing a team that we we dismantled at our place a couple nights before, knowing that they were going to come out and be hungry to get a win on their home court. To be able to finish the game without our starters, like you said, and it shows how professional we are and it shows the resilience that this team has.”
As the wins continue to pile up, Boston’s offense looks more and more legitimate, and their ability to move the ball the way they have has worked wonders. “For us, we know and everybody in this league knows that Jaylen and Jayson...those are our go-to guys,” said Smart. “They’re going to get their shots up, but to be able to move the ball like we do, to get everybody else their shots in the right time, it just makes their job a lot easier and it opened up a lot for them and that’s what it does....when everybody’s touching the ball, everybody’s happy, we’re having fun and that is fun. When we play like that, it’s fun because we understand the potential that we have and sometimes we understand that we’re going to get in those modes where it doesn’t get moved like that like every night. But we got to find a way to figure out how to win games, and we did that tonight.”