Marcus Smart displays MVP defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo in US win over Greece

Marcus Smart displays MVP defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo in US win over Greece

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by anything Marcus Smart does on the defensive end, especially considering his overdue ascension to All-Defense first-teamer last season, and yet it’s still hypnotizing to watch Smart on that end of the court.

Smart's defensive mixtape got a new entry Saturday when, early in the second quarter of Team USA’s 69-53 victory over Greece at the FIBA World Cup, Smart turned into a whirling dervish while tasked with defending reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Twice the 7-foot Antetokounmpo tried to post up the 6-foot-4 Smart and twice Smart spun his way around the olive tree to prevent an entry pass. As if that effort wasn’t enough, it was Smart racing out from underneath the basket to contest a 3-point shot to cap the defensive stand.

Guarding big men is nothing new for Smart, who routinely takes on the challenge of defending NBA bigs. With Team USA playing small, Smart embraced the task again as the Americans opened Round 2 by limiting Greece to 53 points in a 16-point triumph in Shenzhen.

International play, particularly with a shorter 3-point line and lack of defensive 3-second violation, makes it a little easier for a player with Smart’s tenacity to joust with a big such as Antetokounmpo. The lack of knockdown shooters on the perimeters for Greece and the ability for Team USA teammates to help clog the path to Antetokounmpo helps, too. Which is to say that Smart vs. Antetokounmpo is not something the Celtics could routinely embrace during the NBA season.

But as the Celtics get set to enter the 2019-20 season with a new-look frontcourt and attempt to figure out how to limit the likes of Antetokounmpo without the services of Al Horford and Aron Baynes, it’s fair to wonder if the Celtics can lean a little heavier on the likes of Smart, particularly when rolling with small-ball lineups.

The NBA’s defensive matchup data suggests that Smart has defended Antetokounmpo on 54 possessions over the past two seasons when you include regular season and playoffs. In that span, Antetokounmpo generated 18 points on 54 possessions, making 6 of 12 attempts overall, and adding six free throws.

What’s most notable about the numbers is how few possessions Smart spent on Antetokounmpo last postseason. He was credited with only two possessions defended. That’s cringeworthy to Celtics fans who watched Kyrie Irving repeatedly pick up Antetokounmpo and was credited with 16 possessions defended.

Now, matchup data can be noisy but instances like Saturday suggest it wouldn’t be the worst idea if coach Brad Stevens deployed Smart on bigs in small bursts, if for no other reason than to limit the amount of possessions the team’s bigs have to joust. Boston is also lucky to have a player like Semi Ojeleye off the bench who Stevens can throw at the likes of Antetokounmpo.

Ultimately, it goes back to a common theme this offseason: The Celtics lost a lot of defensive talent in their frontcourt and, as they brace for a bit of a center-by-committee experiment, it puts a little more pressure on veterans like Smart and Gordon Hayward to keep the defense afloat. When you lose a Horford, everybody has to pull a little harder with their end of the rope.

Remember, too, that Smart sat out Team USA’s group-play finale Thursday due to the lingering soreness in his calf/quad that previously forced him to sit out some of the Americans’ training camp. There’s not a lot of players that can go from sidelined by an injury to defending an MVP with an 8-inch height advantage and hold their own.

But, well, we shouldn’t be surprised by anything Smart does at this point — particularly when it involves defense, or coming back from injury without missing a beat.

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Celtics' Enes Kanter posts hilarious, spot-on Tacko Fall impression

Celtics' Enes Kanter posts hilarious, spot-on Tacko Fall impression

Enes Kanter remains on top of his TikTok game.

The Boston Celtics center took a break from eating marshmallows off a treadmill to share his hysterical impression of teammate Tacko Fall.

Watch his latest masterpiece below:

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That's about as accurate as it gets.

As much as it seems Kanter is making the most of quarantine life, he's itching to get back onto the court. He recently expressed concern about the NBA season potentially getting cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, which especially would be crushing since the C's are in the mix for a title.

You can hear more from Kanter in the latest episode of "The Enes Kanter Show" below:

Former Celtics star Paul Pierce wants in on virtual game of HORSE

Former Celtics star Paul Pierce wants in on virtual game of HORSE

A virtual game of HORSE? The NBA certainly is trying to get creative amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The NBA and ESPN are working on televising a HORSE competition involving "several high-profile players," according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The competitors would take shots from their home gyms and have to match those of other players. 

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Will one of those "high-profile players" be former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce? It's possible, and he wants in on the competition.

The 10-time All-Star actually could make a splash in the competition -- he shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from beyond the arc in his 19-year NBA career. 

If the 42-year-old ends up competing in the competition, the only thing going against him would be his age. However, if he's anything like Tom Brady then he'll be just fine. 

With the NBA season on pause due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a HORSE competition could be pretty fun to watch.