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Marcus Smart leading Celtics with ‘poise’ and top-notch playmaking

The Celtics veteran has developed an amazing connection with Boston’s stars.

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown stole the show on Christmas Day, leading the Boston Celtics to a big-time win over the Milwaukee Bucks, 139-118. The Jays combined to score 70 points, and in turn, most of the credit will be placed on their shoulders. But the unsung hero of the night was Marcus Smart.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year has been showing off his talents on the offensive end. His playmaking has become the backbone of Boston’s offense, as he’s putting up career-high assist numbers this season.

After Boston’s win over Milwaukee, head coach Joe Mazzulla praised Smart for his impact on the game, despite his lack of contributions in the scoring column.

“He only took four shots, and I thought he was one of the more impactful players on the floor because of his poise and ability to see the floor.”

Smart ended the contest with six points, three rebounds, and eight assists, shooting 2-of-4 from the field. The performance marked the 14th time this season Smart has dished out eight assists in a game, and also just the third time he’s attempted four shots or less this year.

Boston’s offense receives a noticeable jolt when Smart is on the floor, as his passing helps keep things flowing. He’s averaging 7.4 assists this year (13th in the NBA), which comes out to 221 total assists (seventh in the NBA).

His eight-assist performance against the Bucks followed a 10-assist night against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. After the game, Brown sang Smart’s praises, as he helped the Celtics star break out of a slump.

“Obviously I haven’t played basketball up to my level that I expect. I think we got a lot of critics in Boston, but I’m my biggest and my own toughest critic. So obviously, me going through like a little stretch where you could be playing a lot better, obviously you’re going to be a little bit harder on yourself. And Marcus is just a great teammate, knowing that there’s highs and there’s lows in his game.”

The long-time Celtics guard has developed a deep connection with Tatum and Brown over the years, and it’s led to some impressive numbers. So far this year, he’s dished out 65 assists to Brown and 55 to Tatum. Those numbers rank third and 13th in the league when it comes to assist link-ups between two players.

And while not every assist ends up being a work of art, a few of Smart’s dimes have been worthy of a second look.

He’s been able to find them on cuts and in transition at will, and it’s helped the Celtics become the high-power offense they are at their peak. But his impact extends far beyond the court, as evidenced by his post-game speech after Boston’s win over Minnesota.

“Big juice, baby. That’s what I’m talking 'bout. From now on, that’s how you f****** play! I don’t wanna see you putting your damn head down no more. You’re too good for that baby.”

Over the years, Smart has repeatedly shown why he’s referred to as the heart and soul of the Celtics. And this year, he’s showing why his playmaking is the pulse that helps Boston’s offense tick.

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