Big game or not, Marcus Smart is focused on Celtics getting the win


Big game or not, Marcus Smart is focused on Celtics getting the win

“Marcus Smart was like Kyle Korver out there.” – Detroit Pistons head coach/president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy on Nov. 27.

Those were words you probably thought you would never hear said about Smart.

But that’s how Van Gundy saw things after Smart lit up Detroit for a season-high 23 points which included six made 3’s.

Smart is no Kyle Korver, but the impact the 23-year-old can make on the game is undeniable.

Boston (22-5) will need some of that today when they take on the Detroit Pistons who are the only team to hang a double-digit loss on the Celtics this season.

When the two teams met on Nov. 27, Detroit pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 118-108 win over Boston.

And it is the end result, a Celtics loss, that Smart remembers the most about that game.

“It’s all cool and all,” Smart said after his season-high game against Detroit last month. “I’d rather have the win. Obviously, it felt good to be able to get it in rhythm. But like I said, I’d rather have the win.”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into today’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons.


Boston has been at or near the top of the defensive rating standings all season. But when it comes to looking at key components to the Celtics defense, forcing turnovers doesn’t stack up too high on the list of accomplishments. That was indeed the case when these two met on Nov. 27. In that game, the Pistons turned the ball over just eight times for eight points. They are currently 12th in the NBA in turnovers committed per game. Meanwhile, the Celtics committed 17 turnovers that led to 26 points for Detroit, which is a trend the Celtics have to reverse if they want to avoid a two-game losing streak for the first time since losing the first two games of the season.


The ability to play the role of facilitator is one that Al Horford has embraced for quite a while now. But the Celtics need to do a better job of getting him quality shot attempts at the rim because as we know, anything less than that likely results in a pass. This season, we have seen the Celtics are indeed a better team when he gets more shot attempts. The Celtics are 13-2 (.867 winning percentage) when Horford has at least 10 shot attempts. When Horford takes single-digit shot attempts, Boston is 7-3 which averages out to a winning percentage of .700 which isn’t bad but not quite as good as the team’s record when Horford takes at least 10 shots.


For all that did not go Boston’s way the last time these two teams met, what really stuck out was how badly the Celtics were out-performed in the hustle/energy categories. When it came to points in the paint, Boston was beaten 54-44 (although it coming as a surprise to no one); 15-10 on second-chance points and 17-14 fast-break points.


I know Danny Ainge doesn’t think much of plus/minuses from game to game, well aware that they say more about the units on the floor than what any particular player does when he gets in the game. But there are times when they can explain as clearly as any statistical nugget as to why one team emerged with the win and the other lost. In the Nov. 27 game between these two, the Boston Celtics’ entire starting five – yes, all five of them – had a negative plus/minus for the game which was a first for Boston this season.


Looking back on the Nov. 27 game between these two teams, you can sort of understand why the Celtics walked away feeling that it was just one of those nights where the stars aligned and favored Detroit. When Detroit took uncontested shots, they shot just 41.7 percent (23-for-55) from the field. But when the Celtics cranked up their defense and did a better job of closing out and contesting shots … the Pistons damn near wouldn’t miss. Detroit made 21-for-30, or 69.9 percent, of shots that Boston contested.


Gordon Hayward will start traveling with Celtics in March

Gordon Hayward will start traveling with Celtics in March

LOS ANGELES – The Boston Celtics have made a point of trying to change up Gordon Hayward’s rehabilitation routine as to avoid the boredom that’s often associated with the recovery process from a long-term injury such as his.

How about a few days in Southern California?

Hayward is with the team here in Los Angeles, and will stay behind for a few days afterward according to head coach Brad Stevens.

“One of the things we wanted to do was change his environment,” said Stevens who added that Hayward may begin traveling with the team in March. “So, he’s going to be here for these two games, and he will stay here in Southern California for a week to 10 days with a couple of our staff and re-join us in Boston.”

The key to him re-joining the team for road games hinges on whether he can do is rehabilitation work without the need for an ultra-gravity (Ultra-G) machine which he has been using.

Stevens later explained why the team felt the need to try and switch up Hayward’s regimen.

“People that have been through this, you know, long process ... One of the things about us, we’re jumping on a plane every four or five days,” said Stevens who added that Hayward still has “a long way to go” before returning to play in an actual game. “And he’s used to that and he has been in the same routine doing the same thing for three or four months without that. So, we just wanted to have him here for a couple games while we’re out West and for a few days later, leave him out here.”

Al Horford is among the Celtics eager to have Hayward join the team on road games, even if his timeline for returning to action is still targeted for next season.

“We’re happy, anytime, for Gordon to be around us,” Horford said. “For him, it’s his process to getting back to where he needs to be. Obviously, we’re respectful of that. But any chance that he gets around us, it’s good to share with him. He’s still a part of this. That’s the cool thing about it.”


Al Horford joins Kyrie Irving at the all-star game, selected as reserve


Al Horford joins Kyrie Irving at the all-star game, selected as reserve

LOS ANGELES – Kyrie Irving won’t be all by his lonesome during all-star weekend next month, with teammate Al Horford being selected as an all-star reserve.

For Horford, this will be his fifth all-star selection but first as a member of the Boston Celtics after joining the team in 2016.

Horford’s play, particularly on defense, has been instrumental to the Celtics (34-13) having the best record in the Eastern Conference, and third overall in the NBA.

This season, he has averaged 13.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game while shooting a career-best 43 percent from 3-point range.

Horford’s numbers don’t always speak to his impact on teams and more important, winning games.

“He’s a big part of our team in order for us to be number one in the East and hopefully sustain that spot,” Irving said earlier today. “We know how valuable he is. The Celtics organization, our team, everybody. He definitely has a case; he’s got my vote.”

Horford is grateful and appreciative of being named an all-star.

But his focus, as you might expect, is on what he views as a much more significant prize – a victory tonight which would snap Boston’s season-long losing streak which stands at three straight.

Horford is more concerned about the Celtics setting the tone defensively tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“That has to be our mindset,” he said. “And sticking together. So this is a great time for us to make sure we’re together and we do it as a group.”