Without Jayson Tatum in the fold, the Boston Celtics toppled the Washington Wizards 130-121 on Sunday night for their third straight win. Tatum was sidelined with a left ankle sprain, and Jaylen Brown took the reins as Boston’s top scoring option in their win. Marcus Smart also chipped in as the team’s leading playmaker, and dished out a team-high seven assists on the night.
One interesting little wrinkle in Smart’s playmaking was who the assists were going to, as 6-out-of-7 assists were sent to Jaylen Brown, who led all scorers with 36 points on 13-of-23 shooting. On the season, the two teammates have had a serious connection on offense, with Smart assisting Brown on nearly 25% of his shots.
“No, it’s always been there,” said Marcus Smart when asked if anything was different this season between him and Brown. “I guess it’s just being highlighted more, now that I’m starting at the point guard position than any other time. But we’ve always had that connection, just more touches for me to get him the ball.” Since last season, Smart had officially been given the keys to be a primary playmaker for Boston.
“Just we’ve been playing together for a long time,” said Jaylen Brown was asked about Smart assisting him so much. “I think me and Smart are probably the longest tenured Celtics I think he’s the the first and I’m the second, right? We’re just playing off one another, I think a lot of my my assists went to him as well. Smart is a guy who he believes in me. He’s one guy who’s always letting me know ‘you’re one of the better guys in this league too, don’t let everybody forget that’. So now, I appreciate him for being a great teammate, being a great supporter. Me and Smart, we’ve had fights, we’ve had ups and downs, but at the end of the day, that’s my brother and I appreciate him trying to make me be the best version of myself.”
Six more Marcus Smart-to-Jaylen Brown assists tonight. 43 connections this season. Third best assist combo in the NBA.— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) November 28, 2022
Chemistry is off the charts for these two. But we still need to know more about those headlocks. pic.twitter.com/PblJirl6KF
Under Joe Mazzulla, Boston has changed their offensive approach from years past. When asked if anything within the offense changed to get Brown more looks, Smart said “running, getting out. That’s it, in transition, you know? JB is one of the most athletic guys in this league....whichever way you go, he’s one of the fastest guys. So when he gets out and he’s running, it’s hard for people to keep up with him, and that’s how we’re going to get easy buckets for not only him, but for our team.”
With a more pass-heavy approach to offense, Marcus Smart has been all the more useful for the Celtics offense, as he’s really the first pass-first point guard Boston has had in a long time. “Smart is looking to get everybody going,” said Brown, “I think that he’s gotten his opportunity to be starting point guard in this league and he helped us go to the Finals last year. In this league, what’s sensationalized is the scoring the ball, but there’s so many aspects of basketball...they’re just gone, that people don’t even pay attention to, and Smart does a great job at.” For a long time, Smart has been the known as the heart and soul of the Celtics, but now, after a Finals appearance last year and the team eyeing a return this season, his teammates are making sure he’s getting his due.
“He might not get praise because he didn’t score 25 points a game, but he affected the game and he helped us win,” said Brown on Smart, “He brought the energy, he got hustle plays, so in this society he might not get the credit that he deserves but Smart is a big reason why we have enough success this year, and last year we went to the Finals. He’s the the head of the snake. he’s our defensive leader you know he’s our energy guy...he’s diving on the floor for loose balls, all of the above and that allows guys like me and Jayson and to be able to do what we do. But I appreciate Smart because he does a lot of the dirty work night in-night out.”