On the second stop on their road trip, the Boston Celtics made a visit to Toronto to take on the Raptors. With it being the second game in two nights, Al Horford was out, but a surprise scratch was Malcolm Brogdon, who was out with an illness (non-covid). Fortunately for Boston, Marcus Smart made his return to the lineup after missing Sunday night’s game due to a left hip contusion sustained in the overtime loss against the Heat.
Boston’s assists were down significantly against Brooklyn, but with Smart’s return against the Raptors, the ball movement was back as they team tallied up 27 assists on the way to a 116-110 victory over Toronto. Smart racked up 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting, 4-of-8 from deep, and chipped in three rebounds along with 7 assists and two steals. After the win, Smart gave an update on his hip injury that kept him out Sunday.
“Yeah, it was pretty sore after the game, you know?” said Smart, “I took some anti-inflammatory, did my treatment, I was in the cold tub, just doing every little thing I can to release some of that pressure that I was feeling...woke up today and it was feeling pretty good, so I wanted to go out today and give it a shot.” Toronto and Boston have a lot of history, especially in the playoffs, and Smart has always shown out in their matchups.
When asked if he felt his injury at all against the Raptors, Smart said “A little bit, adrenaline kicked in so I wasn’t really worried about it. Tomorrow morning is what I’m worried about, I’ll see how I feel. But I think I’m on the right path and I should be clear, and I shouldn’t be feeling anything that could keep me out. Might be a little sore, but that’s ok.” Smart has never been one to shy away from playing through injuries, but having Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White in the fold has allowed Boston to allocate rest and recovery days as needed between the three of them.
On what their strong performance in their back-to-back says about this team, Smart said “Everything. We’ve been through ups and downs. We’ve been the best team in the league for a minute, and every night throws a different challenge at us, and we come in on the road against a really good team, a hard fighting team that fights to the end.” While on the younger side, this Raptors team has some serious talent, with the length and athleticism that makes them a strong defensive opponent to match up against.
20 seconds sapped on the “slow your roll” play and then a 3-pointer. Celtics just messing with teams. pic.twitter.com/iNJLqUyezH— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) December 6, 2022
“It’s like you said, on the second night of a back-to-back, it’s cold...it’s just one of those days where you know we can make excuses,” said Smart. “But for us, it just shows who we are. No matter what we’re going through, no matter what go through, we’re not going to make any excuses. We’re going to continue to play and we’re going to own up to whatever happens and whatever decision that is and at the the outcome. If that’s a win, that’s a win, if that’s a loss, it’s a loss.”
Over the years, this Celtics core has continued to mature, and with the depth they have now, they’re able to string together wins even with key players out of the lineup. “Everybody contributes,” said Smart, “I got to give a big shoutout to Blake (Griffin), man’s been hooping. I’m sure everybody here in the world probably didn’t know Blake still had some in the tank, so to be able to see him come out and give the energy that he’s giving us, that’s all you can ask for. So it’s no wonder why everybody loves Blake, it’s no wonder why he’s on this team and he’s still here...he understands what it takes to be ready at any given moment.” Griffin got the starting nod with Horford out, and chipping in 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting along with 8 rebounds, two assists and a steal.
The Celtics have never lost a game in which Blake Griffin starts pic.twitter.com/GVafAQzzxR— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) December 6, 2022
“It’s been big for us,” said Smart on the learning opportunity games like this provide. “Like you said, it’s hard to win up here, especially up here in Toronto it is tough. They get that crowd going, they get on their feet and they get that energy in that arena, and they fuel the guys. I’ve been on the other end of these games a few times. it is hard to win in this league, especially here. So for us to be able to come out and and win it and like you said, learn and have those years to learn from it is big for us. each of those games we lost in the past years we always have something to learn from. and I think that’s what’s kind of helping us in these games now. We’ve had games that are similar last year and in the previous years that has getting us ready for what we have to come in front of us now.”
Boston will face another challenge as they head further west for a matchup against the Phoenix Suns, 10PM EST tipoff.