Celtics

Celtics

Brad Stevens is doing what most NBA coaches do during the preseason: Play a lot of different players and combinations.
 
But down the stretch in Boston’s preseason opener against Philadelphia on Tuesday, there was a familiar face on the floor in the game’s closing seconds.
 
It was Marcus Smart, whose game-changing ways will once again be on display tonight when the Celtics travel to Greensboro, N.C., to face the Charlotte Hornets.
 
Boston’s 92-89 preseason loss to the Sixers was yet another game in which Smart seemed to be at his best in the game’s closing minute.
 
With 47 seconds to play, Smart finished off a difficult lay-up that made it 90-87.
 
Boston then fell behind by five points, only to make it a one-possession game again following a dunk by Jordan Mickey that cut Philadelphia’s lead to 92-89.
 
And after Mickey’s dunk, Smart was causing problems once again.
 
Smart blanketed Sixers guard Sergio Rodriguez and forced him to lose control of the ball as it sailed out of bounds.
 
The plan at that point in the game was to go for the steal and if that didn’t work, foul immediately.
 
 But Smart was confident that he could make a play that could get the Celtics the ball back.
 
“I knew once [Rodriguez] turned his back, there’s no way I wasn’t going to get that steal,” Smart told CSNNE.com. “I anticipated it and we were able to come up with the ball.”
 
Boston wasn’t able to seal the deal after the big play, but it served as yet another reminder of Smart’s game-changing ability at both ends of the floor.
 
The Celtics will need even more of that from him this season with Evan Turner’s departure to Portland.
 
Just like Turner earned Stevens' unshakeable trust to be on the floor in the fourth quarter, Smart has already made significant strides to pick up where Turner left off in those critical, down-to-the-wire moments.
 
According to NBA.com/stats, Smart (8.0 minutes) was third on the team last season behind Turner (8.9) and Bradley (8.7) in fourth-quarter minutes among Celtics players.
 
So when Stevens called his number on Tuesday to go into the game in the fourth quarter Smart wasn’t the least bit surprised, considering how much he was leaned upon to play down the stretch last season.
 
“It’s good to be out there in that type of moment,” Smart said. “The coaching staff trusts me to be out there.”
 
But as much as Smart wants to be on the floor all the time, he knows the importance of getting the most out of the limited minutes he’ll play in the preseason.
 
Smart said his game plan throughout the preseason is pretty simple.
 
“Just get comfortable with the guys out there and making sure I get my conditioning up and get ready for the regular season,” Smart said.