On Monday night, Marcus Smart was as fiery as we’ve seen him this season for the Boston Celtics.
And the target of his anger … his teammates.
“I was telling my guys, 'We’re being punked out there,' " Smart told CSN’s Abby Chin after Monday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “ 'They’re getting every offensive rebound. They’re getting whatever they want in the paint. Nobody’s boxing out, they’re pushing us under the rim.'
"I just had enough of it."
- WATCH: Every point in Celtics 19-0 run vs. Timberwolves
- Crowder's ankle keeps him on sideline late vs. Timberwolves
- Celtics storm back with 19-0 run, beat Timberwolves, 99-93
- Stars, studs and duds: Rozier key in Celtics comeback win vs. Timberwolves
Fortunately for the Celtics, Smart was not alone as the Celtics made the biggest comeback in the league this season to escape with a 99-93 win over the Timberwolves.
Boston trailed 81-68 going into the fourth quarter, a sure-fire loss when you consider each of the 39 teams that went into the fourth down by 13 or more points this season wound up losing.
But the Celtics engineered a 17-0 run to start the fourth that paved the way for the victory.
Terry Rozier’s 12 points off the bench were important. Ditto for Al Horford’s all-around night in which he filled the stat sheet in several categories with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots – a stat line that he posted for the second consecutive game which had not been done by a Celtic since Paul Pierce in November of 2002.
But as you talked to players after the win, it becomes clear that Smart’s speech was impactful.
“Really it all started at the end of the third, Marcus Smart calling out all of us,” Horford told reporters after the win.
Jonas Jerebko echoed similar sentiments about Smart who had nine points, six rebounds and five assists.
“They (Minnesota) were just playing harder than us the whole game before that fourth quarter. Smart in the time-out, he called the whole team out,” Jerebko said. “We had to come out and just play harder than them … and good stuff happened.”
After getting “punked” on the glass through three quarters (the Celtics were minus-17 on the boards through the first three quarter), Boston out-rebounded the Timberwolves 15-10 in the fourth quarter. They also shot the ball better (55.6 percent to 20 percent), committed fewer turnovers (one compared to three for Minnesota) and went to the line 10 times compared to 1 free throw attempt for the Timberwolves.
Boston was a lot more active at both ends of the floor, with contributions coming from just about every player who stepped out on the floor.
And while Smart may have been the catalyst of the comeback, the key to it was how his words were embraced by his teammates.
“Everybody locked in and they agreed,” Smart said. “We held each other accountable. A 13-point lead for them (Timberwolves), it can go away real fast in a game at this level. So everybody picked up their slack.”
And in doing so, the Celtics (8-6) have now won two in a row with both victories coming on the road.
“It’s huge. It’s something we need on the road,” Smart said. “We been in a little bit of a slump, win-lose, win-lose. To come down 15 and take the lead and win it, was amazing for us.”