BOSTON -- We have seen Marcus Smart play the role as a fill-in at the point, small forward and on Saturday night he was inserted into the starting lineup for shooting guard Avery Bradley (right Achilles soreness).
Whatever the position, Smart tends to step up to the moment and keep things moving along.
But Saturday night was different.
The third-year guard did more than just fill in for Bradley.
He filled up the stat sheet, on the TD Garden floor which has been a house of horrors for him this season.
And Smart’s play was one of the keys to Boston continuing to rack up the wins at home, this time being a 117-108 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The 6-foot-4 Smart had a season-high 22 points on an efficient 7-for-10 shooting night which included him making five of his seven 3-point attempts.
Let me repeat that.
Smart took seven 3’s and wound up making five of them, also a season high.
In addition to fighting off the Pelicans, Smart said battling Mother Nature who blanketed New England with several inches of snow on Saturday, was also part of the challenge he and his Celtics teammates faced.
“It’s a tough game,” Smart said. “It’s snowing outside. The weather got everybody kind of in a lazy mood and we had to bring our own energy tonight. The crowd woke up and they got us into it. I just knew, with that being said, we need to come out early.”
And Smart did just that, leading all Celtics in scoring in the first quarter with nine points on 3-for-3 shooting, along with dishing out three assists in the first to go with two steals and a blocked shot.
While Smart’s play on Saturday stood out in part because Bradley wasn’t around, it was the kind of performance that we’re seeing more of from him regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench.
“He’s been unbelievable,” said Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. “His maneuvering of the pick-and-roll has been unbelievable the last month for sure.”
But to speak of Smart’s growth in terms of how he handles pick-and-rolls now, or shoots from 3-point range, or even defends at a high level, doesn’t address what makes Smart so special.
He makes an impact.
“He has things you can’t teach,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “When he has the full package, he’s a tough guard to handle. When he plays like that, I bet we win 100 percent of the time. He puts so much pressure on the defense when he’s hitting the shots. And on the defensive end, he’s a monster at that end.”
A monster that’s growing up before our very eyes into a player whose ability to play at a high level offensively and defensively, seems to be getting better and more consistent with time.
“He’s made huge strides … that’s what we need from him,” Olynyk said.