Two games in and the return of Marcus Smart has had the effect many predicted it would for Boston.
There may be other Celtics who score more points, tally more assists and snare a few more rebounds.
But the impact of Smart’s play on what truly matters – winning – is undeniable.
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His play was one of the keys to Boston’s 121-112 win at New York on Saturday night.
Smart came off the bench to score 11 points to go with five assists and three steals.
In his two games back, Smart is averaging 11.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals while shooting 64.3 percent from the field.
Yes, it’s a small sample size for sure.
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More than anything, it serves as a reminder of how one of Smart’s greatest assets as a player is his ability to contribute in a multitude of ways.
“He just adds a lot of versatility to our offense and our defense,” Boston’s Kyrie Irving told NBC Sports Boston following Saturday’s game. “He has a high awareness on both ends. He’s able to create opportunities for all of us at both ends of the floor and we appreciate that.”
Certainly Smart is credited for being a good defender, and his play-making skills have improved dramatically in the last year or so.
But arguably Smart’s biggest contribution is that his play allows others around him, to focus on whatever it is that they do well, knowing that Smart has the ability to do both his job as well as provide help when needed.
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Boston’s defense struggled mightily before the break with teams scoring seemingly whenever they wanted to.
But in the last two games, Boston has looked more like the defensive unit that has been among the NBA’s best most of this season.
In the last two games, Boston’s defensive rating has been 104.5 which ranks 11th in the NBA during that span.
Several factors have played a role in Boston’s improved defense the last two games; among them being the return of Smart who missed 11 games after punching a picture frame last month that left him with 20 stitches.
“It’s the appreciation of Marcus Smart right there,” Irving said. “Implement him and him just putting his stamp and identity on our team as well. It just makes a lot of other guy’s job, easier. Because he covers up a lot of our mistakes as well as playing with unbelievable awareness at both ends of the floor. He understands spacing, he understands how the little things matter.”