Celtics

Celtics' Marcus Smart again comes up with 'unbelievable' key plays late that shouldn't be overlooked

Celtics' Marcus Smart again comes up with 'unbelievable' key plays late that shouldn't be overlooked

MIAMI — Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Marcus Smart labors through a rough shooting night and is uncharacteristically sloppy handling the ball for the better part of three quarters. Then, crunch time rolls around and Marcus Smart morphs into the most valuable player on the court.

It’s a tale as old as time. But it played itself out again on Tuesday night in Miami. Smart missed nine of his first 10 shots and matched his season-high with four turnovers.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Still, with the game in the balance, Smart did Smart things. Like calmly knocking down a straightaway 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining on a kick out from Kemba Walker. Like swatting down what should have been an easy Bam Adebayo dunk a short time later. Like flinging himself into a trio of baby-blue jerseys and out-jumping the springy Adebayo for an impossible offensive rebound in the final minute.

A cursory glance at the box score will have most dismissing Smart’s night. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting — missing all five of his shots inside the arc and five more of eight beyond it — with the four turnovers. 

But he balanced it out with eight rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in 36:29. All while being absolutely everywhere down the stretch as the Celtics picked up one of their best road wins of the season in Miami.

What was going through Smart’s mind late in the game?

“Win,” said Smart. "To me, it’s just what can I do to help my team? And, [on the offensive rebound], I saw a loose ball. I just thought, first one to get it, whatever happens, happens.

"I’m in the air, so I was hoping I didn’t get flipped or get hit in the face like I usually do. But you can’t think of that in the moment. You gotta go, and go hit the ball. First person to the floor, first person to the ball wins.”

Walker marveled at the way Smart makes all the key plays in high-pressure situations.

"Man, that dude. I love that dude,” said Walker. "I love his passion for the game. I love his energy. I love how he competes each and every night. He makes me want to compete just like him.

"He’s just so tough. He’s not scared of the moment. He made so many huge plays down the stretch. I know everybody will probably say the 3 that he made, but Adebayo had an open basket, he blocked his shot. I missed a shot, he got a huge [rebound]. He’s unbelievable. Unbelievable.”

Smart seemed smitten to learn of Walker’s praise. He noted it carries additional heft because of Walker’s All-Star status and the intensity that Walker brings to the floor.

“It’s a great feeling. I love Kemba, that’s my brother,” said Smart. “Just like all these guys in this locker room. But to hear somebody of his caliber just really really really give you praise and the recognition that you probably never get, it means a lot.”

Smart said he couldn’t allow missed shots to impact his energy. In fact, the missed shots only caused him to lock in a bit more defensively and find other ways to impact the game.

And all the struggles of the first 46 minutes will be forgotten because of his efforts in the last two.

“Continue to do what I normally do. I don’t really let shots not falling affect how I play, energy-wise,” said Smart. “Times like that, when your shot's not falling, your defense has to be at an all-time high. So, for me, just making sure guys are in the right spots on the defensive end and just really really really getting guys like [Jaylen Brown] and Gordon [Hayward] — they were the hot guys tonight, so we were trying to find them as much as we can.”

Still, teammates marvel at the way Smart can just take over a game with nothing more than grit and desire.

“Getting that tip-out…when he tipped it out and we were able to shoot free throws, that was a big momentum play, a huge play, at the end of the game,” said Grant Williams, who has affectionately dubbed himself a "Smart Mini-Me” and left a similar energy-filled stamp on the game Tuesday night. Williams noted that Smart’s play undoubtedly rubs off on the rest of the team.

Said Williams: “Just following his lead.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Warriors-Celtics, which begins Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

NBA Rumors: Execs expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million Celtics contract

NBA Rumors: Execs expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million Celtics contract

Gordon Hayward was enjoying his best season as a Boston Celtic before the 2019-20 season came to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Through 45 games, the 30-year-old forward was averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 59.3 percent from the field. Hayward's performance was setting himself up for a solid contract if he were to opt out of his contract and hit free agency this summer.

That scenario doesn't appear likely, however.

According to Heavy.com, NBA executives expect Hayward to exercise his $34 million player option.

'It’s too much money to pass up,' one general manager told Heavy.com. 'He could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him, they have a lot of young guys to pay and the starting (salary) number on whatever the contract is will not be close to $34 million. He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021.'

That doesn't exactly come as a surprise. Hayward may get a nice contract if he were to hit the open market this year, but it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near that eye-popping $34 million figure.

It makes far more sense for Hayward to take his money and test the market in 2021 if he and the Celtics don't agree on an extension before then. The 2021 free agent class will be much deeper, and teams will have more cap space to give Hayward a sizable long-term deal. That is, if he can duplicate the kind of success he's enjoyed so far this season.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine break down 2008 Finals Game 6 vs. L.A

Celtics Talk Podcast: Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine break down 2008 Finals Game 6 vs. L.A

With the 2019-20 NBA season suspended, what better time to relive the Boston Celtics' 2008 Finals run vs. the Los Angeles Lakers?

As part of NBC Sports Boston's "Classic Celtics" series, Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine took a trip down memory lane and watched their Game 6 series-clincher while providing some commentary.

In the latest Celtics Talk Podcast, you can listen to Pierce and Scal go quarter by quarter to get Pierce’s recollection of what it was like to win a championship in front of the Boston crowd.

Click here to listen and subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast:

Boston was 35-6 at home in the 2008 regular season and lost only one game at home in their playoff run. Pierce credits that success, and their dominant Game 6 performance, to the raucous fans at TD Garden.

We're at home, we've been a dominant home team ... you could just feel it. I don't know, it's just something about the Garden, man. You could just feel it. It was like, when the momentum was going, you know the type of runs we were capable of...

Just pulling up to the arena when you see everybody just all in the streets coming from the bars. And it was just like, when we were in the locker room before the game and you hear the chants of 'Beat L.A.," it's hard to hear in the locker room. Our crowd was that energetic and I just remember hearing that from the locker room. There's just something about the energy in that building, man. That's why we were so dominant at home throughout the playoffs.

After re-watching their dominant 131-92 win, Pierce reflected on what it felt like to finally walk off the court an NBA champion.

It was the best feeling in the world because you think about all the years from the time I started playing basketball, this is what it was all about. Making it to the NBA and winning a championship and doing it with the Boston Celtics ... 

I'm just ecstatic. I'm like man, these are my brothers for life. Everybody knows what we go through every day in practice. Everyday is not always smooth. We have arguments. But it's all for this moment and you can't -- those moments will never go away, man. They'll live with you forever.

NBC Sports Boston's Classic Celtics series will continue with a bunch of memorable games on the docket, including the C's 1986 showdown vs. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1896 playoffs. That one is set to air Sunday night at 7 p.m.

To hear more from Pierce and Scal about their 2008 championship run, check out this week's episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, available on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network and YouTube.