BOSTON – In the closing moments of Wednesday’s Game 5 win over the 76ers, Boston’s Marcus Smart had what can be best described as, a “Marcus Smart moment.”
With Boston ahead 113-112 with 2.4 seconds to play, Smart, who missed the first free throw, tried to intentionally miss the second but instead, it went in.
That meant Philadelphia would have a chance to throw a long pass and potentially tie the game up or win it with a three.
So the pass is thrown deep, but who you do think was there to intercept it in mid-air?
It’s not always pretty, and sometimes it doesn’t go quite as planned.
But when the game is on the line, more often than not Smart will make the game-changing play to help secure a victory.
That’s exactly how things played out in Boston’s 114-112 Game 5 win over the Sixers which eliminated them from the playoffs while the Celtics move on to the Eastern Conference finals where they will face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“We knew it was going to be a hard game,” said Smart who led Boston’s reserves with 14 points. “That’s a tough team we played tonight, and it was going to take everything we had.”
There were so many heroes who played a role in Boston advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the second year in a row.
But it’s hard to look past Smart’s impact at both ends of the floor and not acknowledge how vital he was to Boston moving on to another round of play.
“When things weren’t going as smooth, I thought he settled us down with his post-ups and with his play around the rim, and he made some great passes,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s … he’s made for this. Like, he’s made for these moments, and that’s the thing that we just keep talking about. Like, we can go through a stat line all you want, but, when it’s … when your seasons are on the line and when you’re in the playoffs and when you’ve got to do really hard things, he can do really hard things.”
Dario Saric gave Boston fits most of the game, including Smart who is about six inches shorter.
Late in the game, Saric tried to back Smart down in the post only for Smart to back off him at the last minute which led to Saric losing the ball and in doing so, would serve as one of the many clutch plays by the Celtics in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
Smart also had a late-game put-back of a Jayson Tatum miss that was yet another play in which Marcus Smart was, well, doing Marcus Smart-like things.
“Smart’s one of those guys that things can be going a certain way, but you need a play to happen, you need a loose ball, you need anything and he’s going to come through,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “That put-back he had there towards the end when Tatum (Jayson) missed was huge and then he seemed to be there in those big moments. That is what he does. It was good to see that.”
But as his teammates will attest to, even with the best intentions in mind, things can still go a little squirrelly for Smart and the Celtics.
Like the end-of-the-game sequence with him at the free throw line and the intended miss that turned into a point, and how quickly Smart bounced back from that to come up with a game-sealing steal.
“That’s Marcus Smart’s secrets. That just describes him so well,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Tries to miss a free throw, makes it, and the first guy that gets back and gets the steal and put his body on the line. He didn’t care if he ran into somebody or if he hurt himself, he was coming up with that ball. I’ve said it before and Brad (Stevens) has said it that if it came down to anybody coming up with it, everybody got their money on Smart.”