When Friday night’s Celtics game against New York began, Marcus Smart was defending Carmelo Anthony.
Later on that night, he was matched up with Kristaps Porzingis, two different, but difficult, covers for any defender.
Tonight, he’ll see time trying to guard Paul George, a different kind of challenge but a daunting one nonetheless.
Welcome to Marcus Smart’s world, one where the challenge defensively never ends.
And if you spend any amount of time around Smart, you’ll quickly discover he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“He just knows what to do, he knows where to be,” said teammate Isaiah Thomas. “He brings that energy. That’s what type of player he is.”
And with the Celtics (4-4) still short-handed courtesy of injuries, Smart’s versatility is even more valuable.
“Every night you have to fight,” Smart said. “You have to have that dog, you have to fight like it’s your last game.”
That now-or-never mindset was certainly on display in the 115-87 win over the Knicks.
Smart had one of his best all-around games this season, tallying a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 10 assists.
He was particularly impressive in the first quarter when he drained his first two 3-point attempts, showcasing his long-ball skills, which for the bulk of his career has been a weakness.
It’s not unusual for Smart to make an impact on the game, but it’s not usually at both ends of the floor.
“It means a lot for me, means a lot for this team and just to be able to come out and contribute on both ends,” Smart said. “It opens the floor for other guys like Isaiah and Terry [Rozier]. Those guys come out especially when I’m able to knock down that outside shot.”
One of the reasons coach Brad Stevens was reluctant to put Smart into the starting lineup for an injured Jae Crowder [ankle], was because he was concerned about how it would impact the second unit.
Smart missed the first three games of the season dealing with an ankle sprain, so Stevens wanted to get him as much time with the second unit just to help him develop a nice rhythm and just as significant, bolster the overall play of that unit.
But with the Celtics, Smart playing with the first unit has worked out pretty well. Boston is 30-19 when he starts.
Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Smart’s teammates remain confident he’ll contribute in a positive way.
“You know what you’re going to get out of him,” Thomas said. “You don’t know if he’s going to score or things like that; that’s the cherry on top. You know he’s going to play his heart out. He’s going to defend and get all those loose balls that we need him to get. I love playing with Marcus. He makes my job easier.”