Trailing Cleveland 92-90 late in the fourth quarter, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart got the nod from head coach Brad Stevens to re-enter the game.
Smart has shown a knack for making clutch shots or getting his hands dirty for steals but in this particular moment, Smart reverted back to what he does as well as anyone on the Celtics roster.
He put himself in great position to draw a charge against Derrick Williams, a turnover Smart forced just three seconds after entering the game.
And 31 seconds later, Smart drew another charge against Williams which soon led to a 3-pointer by Jae Crowder.
That was one of the many big shots Boston hit in the final seconds of what turned into a 103-99 victory over the Cavs.
But those shots, like many this season for Boston, were set up by big plays at the defensive end by Smart.
And while he is often praised for getting steals or keeping his defender in front of him to contest shots, Smart has developed into one of the NBA’s best at drawing charges.
He leads the Celtics with 18 drawn charges this season which ranks fifth in the league.
Head coach Brad Stevens is aware of what Smart brings to the table defensively, referring to him at times as the team’s sixth starter who makes “winning plays.”
And among those winning plays is an ability to draw charges frequently.
“He’s not afraid to put his body on the line,” Stevens told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “He’s got great instincts to beat people to a spot. He does a good job of knowing people’s tendencies, knowing what they want to do, the directions they want to go.”
Knowing where to be and how to get there is just part of the job.
Playing with an insatiable desire to do so over and over again, that’s what separates Smart from many of the game’s better defenders.
“He plays with multiple efforts to get there,” Stevens said. “And then, it’s easier said than done to be willing to step in front of some of these guys driving the ball. He does that over and over.”