After a tightly contested first three quarters, the Boston Celtics surged ahead in the fourth, taking down the Detroit Pistons on Friday night 114-103. Jayson Tatum led the game with 31 points, but both Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart had at least 20 points, too.
It marked Boston’s fifth consecutive win, bringing their season total to 41. They sit at fifth in the East but are tied with the fourth place Chicago Bulls in the standings.
After helping limit Cade Cunningham to a 10-for-27 night shooting, the conversation after the game quickly turned to the Defensive Player of the Year award. Smart recently tweeted about the race, stating that more guards need to be in consideration. After the win over Detroit, he expanded:
“I don’t see why it’s so hard for guards to win it. We talk about what bigs do, and you know, I’m not taking anything from bigs, but you gotta first understand that in order for the guy to get to the big, he gotta get by us guards first.”
Out of 230 players who have logged at least 1000 minutes this season, Smart has the seventh-best opponent’s field goal percentage in the entire league (42.7 percent). Smart noted that guards rarely get credit for being the first line of defense every night and he didn’t mince words:
“Most of the time, we’re making it so tough that by the time he gets to him, all the big gotta do is send it back the other way. I mean, we’re doing the majority of the hard work, but for us to not even be talked about it in the discussion, let alone win it is... that’s some BS.”
Smart even took it a step further, calling the award a popularity contest. He went on to give credit to Robert Williams as well. This was mere hours after Williams told the media that Smart should be the DPOY this year.
“We all know it’s a popularity contest. You got me and Rob, I mean, we’re not even in discussion for it on the best defensive team in the league. I think that says enough”
Despite their poor start to the season, Boston has managed to overtake the Golden State Warriors as the best defense in the league this season (105.6 DRTG). They also rank third in the league in opponents’ points per game (104.0). Smart continued, talking about all the hustle plays guards like him make on a nightly basis.
“But it definitely is, it does suck for us guards who grind. You sacrifice your body. You the one diving on the majority of the loose balls. You the one taking the charges. You the one taking the bumps and the bruises and sending it to the big man, making sure, individually, you do everything you can before he gets to that back of defense.”
The Celtics point guard leads the league in loose balls recovered (67, tied with Anthony Edwards), is tenth in deflections (168), and is 15th in charges drawn (11). It’s safe to say that he gives his body up on a nightly basis for Boston. But in the end, Smart says he’s not too concerned with the award. All he cares about is winning games.
“I’m not too stressed about it, like I said. I don’t play the game for the individual accolades. I play the game to win games… So it’s tough, but I gotta say, for me, it is what it is. I’m here to win games, and that’s what I care about.”