Celtics

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

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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.

TURNOVER GAME

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.

MORE SHOTS FOR AL HORFORD

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.

EFFORT/HUSTLE CATEGORIES

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.

PLUS/MINUS

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.

TO CONTEST … OR NOT

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

Jayson Tatum on overhyped talk: 'I'll stick to my job'

A story earlier this week from Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes calling burgeoning young Celtics star Jayson Tatum one of the NBA's five most overrated players has expectedly ruffled some feathers in the Boston sports stratosphere. 

But Tatum himself is taking the high road. In a conversation with ESPN's Chris Forsberg centered around his recent workouts with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, the 20-year-old forward, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting this past season, said he wasn't bothered by the article:

While Hughes acknowledged that Tatum could be a franchise player, his reasoning for inclusion on the list was that he could be a victim of the stacked team for which he plays, saying, "Kyrie has never been one to take a backseat, and with him back on the floor, it'll be much harder for Tatum to build on his postseason takeover."

As for the session with Kobe? Tatum clearly absorbed a lot:

Hughes also named Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, Bulls foward Zach LaVine and Suns forward Josh Jackson in the company of overhyped players.

It's been quite a week for Tatum, the former No. 3 overall pick out of Duke University. Earlier in the week, the St. Louis native had his jersey number permanently retired at his high school alma mater.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Even with three All-Stars in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge and the Celtics knew that, in order to win a championship, the team needed a strong supporting cast of role players.

Episode Four of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” takes a look at how Ainge constructed the rest of the roster and how one word, “ubuntu,” set the tone for a memorable season.

Giving the team a shooter off the bench, as well as another veteran presence in the locker room, Eddie House was perfect for the 2008 Celtics.

“I remember going to a practice when he was a young player,” said Ainge regarding House. “Just watching him shoot, and shoot, and just amazed at what a great shooter this kid was.”

“I saw him have his 56 and 60 back-to-back point games in the Pac-10 and it was amazing.”

Long a fan of House, Ainge went out and got his guy, but he wasn’t finished yet.

James Posey, a veteran wing who had experience both starting and coming off the bench, was nearing a deal with the Nets, but one call changed everything.

“I actually told my agent, I’ll just go to New Jersey,” said Posey. “Then Eddie House called me.”

House convinced Posey to spurn the Nets in favor of the Celtics, giving Boston another veteran off the pine.

With the roster taking shape, what the team needed now was an identity.

Ubuntu.

Mentioned to Doc Rivers at a trustee meeting at Marquette University, the word that means “I am who I am because of you,” became the team’s mantra.

“I looked this word up and I spent, no exaggeration, hours and days on this word,” said Rivers. “Everything about the word epitomized what we had to be.”

Ubuntu was the rallying cry of the 2008 Celtics and it all started with a Board of Trustees meeting at Marquette.

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe to the podcast through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.