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Marcus Smart: “Everybody’s confidence is going up”

Boston’s point guard doled out compliments and talked about the team’s overall mentality after the win over Charlotte

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics are 10-4 in their last 14 games and have the second-best net rating in the NBA (9.2) since the start of 2022. Things are looking up.

In addition, they are 5-1 in their last six games, coinciding with the return of point guard Marcus Smart. Over that stretch, Boston holds the best net rating in the NBA by far at 19.3. The Golden State Warriors are next up at 11.4.

After their most recent win over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night, Smart spoke about how it felt to grind out such a closely contested win.

“It was great. It’s something that we’ve preached and harped on all season. Something that we’ve had to fix and get better at. What better way to come out against a team like Charlotte to have to put that to the test.”

Boston has struggled in “clutch” situations this year, but things have been looking up for them lately. Instead of floundering under the pressure, Smart says the Celtics have been trusting each other more and more. The results have spoken for themselves.

“Believing in one another. Trusting the system that we have on both ends. Trusting the game plan, the scheme that Ime put together. And just trusting our instincts. We made the right play at the right time.”

Charlotte surged back into the game in the fourth quarter, but Boston was able to close things out. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but the end result was a win, and that shows some serious progress from earlier this year.

Smart also didn’t hesitate to praise some of his teammates after the game. He complimented Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on their improved passing and decision-making.

“The game plan that everybody has is to make the Jays pass the ball. They have to do a good job at it, and they’ve been doing a phenomenal job at it. By doing that it’s just going to open the floor up for them later down in the stretch where it’s time for them to take over.”

Earlier this season, Smart made headlines by saying that Tatum and Brown don’t pass the ball. He caught a lot of heat for it, but from the looks of things lately, he may have been right.

Boston’s defensive specialist was also asked about Robert Williams, who made a clutch, game-saving block on PJ Washington late in the fourth. He called on Williams to keep being great, but also made sure to slide in a joke about who the best defender on the team is.

“It was amazing. I actually told him, you look like me out there, you’re going to beat me out for being one of the best defenders out here. So keep going. I’m proud of it. Rob is phenomenal on that end… We’re going to need Rob every night to be that Rob.”

Williams finished the night with two steals and three blocks, while Smart notched a steal and a block of his own. The competition for best defender continues.

When asked about the growth he’s seen from this group in recent weeks, Smart’s words should be encouraging to Bostonians everywhere.

“A lot. A lot of things we did early on in the year that were hurting us, we cut down on. A lot of things that we didn’t do to help us earlier on in the year, we’re starting to do more of it. It’s definitely showing itself. Not just to the crowd, to the fans, to the teams that we play, but to ourselves. Everybody’s confidence is going up, and everybody just continues to believe in one another.”

The Celtics are now 28-25 — three games above .500 for the first time this season — and have a real chance to make some noise. They sit just two games behind the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets, and only four games from the fourth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.

Boston will take on the Detroit Pistons on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.

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