BOSTON - It's hard not to like Kent Bazemore's game, especially if you're a fan of these Celtics.
Danny Ainge was reportedly interested in Bazemore to some extent before he chose the Hawks, and it's pretty obvious why. Bazemore is the kind of player who is always going to bring it out on both ends of the court.
Undrafted out of Old Dominion, he went from rarely playing on the Warriors three seasons ago to starting for the Atlanta Hawks. So yes, he's worked for just about everything he has in the NBA, and should make some nice money as a free agent this offseason.
But it takes a guy like Bazemore to know a guy like Bazemore, and that's why his comments about Marcus Smart after Friday's game stood out a bit.
Asked if he was surprised the Celtics got so many stops with Jonas Jerebko at the rim, Bazemore said he wasn't surprised and then commended Smart's "defensive energy" out there as a big reason the Celtics won Game 3.
"When Marcus Smart is out there, the defensive energy he brings is kind of contagious," Bazemore said. "And tonight, like I said, the energy from them was much different, and they ramped it up. They definitely took their game to another level and flied around. The block he had in transition on Al, Marcus Smart, was huge. Those are plays that win games. Those are the winning plays and you’ve got to give them credit. They wanted this one a little bit more than we did. A couple loose balls, they were diving on the floor. We were trying to run and scoop them. So those small plays like that really show what team wants it more.”
The block Bazemore is referring to came at a crucial point in the game with the Celtics leading the Hawks 104-100 with a little over three minutes to play. Horford got the ball in transition and dribbled coast to coast, working his way past Jerebko and Isaiah Thomas in the paint and going up for what he thought was the easy layup.
Smart jumped up and just got a hand on it to prevent the two points, and Boston instead turned it into one point of their own when Isaiah Thomas got fouled on the ensuing possession, hitting one of two free throws.
Smart, who finished with 11 points and five assists, had just missed a three-pointer prior to his block, but didn't let that negatively affect his play. Perhaps that was a real sign of maturity as he and the C's held off the Hawks down the stretch.
"Just staying poised," Smart said. "The Hawks are a great team. They have some great players. They're going to make some plays that you just look at and want to be like, 'Dang', you want to hold your head [low]. You can't do that against those guys. You have to move on to the next play and you have to execute."
Smart did move on to the next play, and it may have prevented a big momentum swing in favor of the Hawks in the process. They know it, too.