Marcus Smart returning to form has Celtics headed in the right direction

Marcus Smart returning to form has Celtics headed in the right direction

BOSTON -- Before Monday’s game between Chicago and Boston, Bulls head coach Jim Boylen likened a few Celtics to being players that bring a certain gridiron toughness to the game of basketball.

“To me, they (Celtics) got some football players in their group,” Boylen said. 

A group that included Marcus Smart whose tough, gritty brand of basketball is starting to take shape more consistently after missing several games with an assortment of ailments. 

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Smart’s play was among the keys to Boston (27-11) surging ahead on Monday for a 113-101 victory over the Chicago Bulls. 

Despite coming off the bench, Smart led all Celtics in minutes played (33 minutes, 24 seconds) before finishing with 12 points on 4-or-8 shooting, to go with eight assists, five rebounds, three steals, a blocked shot and a team-best plus/minus of +25. 

“He’s been a great boost for us, and I think he’s starting to find himself after being out so long, in these last three, four games,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

Smart, who missed eight games with an eye infection and another game with a cold - all within the last four or five weeks - has proven to be more than just a defensive pest for opponents. 

Boylen noted how Smart’s toughness and versatility in a multitude of roles, is what makes him such a unique NBA talent. 

“Smart has the ability to start, come off the bench, has the ability to play one (point guard) through four (power forward) basically, and help you win,” Boylen said. 

And while Smart’s defense garners most of the headlines, Boylen says folks shouldn’t sleep on what he brings to the floor as a two-way player. 

“Smart, as much as maybe people think he’s not an offensive player, I think he is,” Boylen said. “I think he is. He figures out where to make plays and when to post his mismatch and play the game.”

And as the Celtics continue their bounceback from three straight losses with a pair of wins, it’s not a coincidence that Smart’s defensive activity has picked up and with that, so has the rest of the team’s overall play. 

Jayson Tatum isn’t surprised at the impact that a relatively healthy Smart has had on the Celtics, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

 “I feel like … he’s the best defender in the league,” Tatum said. “We try to follow him and his energy that he brings on defense. It just goes through the team.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Pistons-Celtics, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Who are the best power forwards in Celtics history? Ranking the Top 10

Who are the best power forwards in Celtics history? Ranking the Top 10

Big men have always been a big deal for the Boston Celtics, particularly when it comes to the power forward position. 

And while the position has certainly evolved through the years, Celtics manning this position have consistently been among the best in the NBA. 

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So who are the best of the best? We take a look at the Boston Celtics’ all-time great power forwards, a Top 10 list that is almost completely full of Hall of Famers.

Click here for the gallery.

Classic Celtics: Terry Rozier, C's topple Bucks in Game 7 of 2018 playoffs

Classic Celtics: Terry Rozier, C's topple Bucks in Game 7 of 2018 playoffs

No Kyrie Irving? No Gordon Hayward? No problem.

The 2017-18 Boston Celtics faced plenty of adversity in the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs, battling an up-and-coming Milwaukee Bucks squad in a series that came down to Game 7 at TD Garden.

Celtics fans know what happened next, but if you need a friendly refresher, NBC Sports Boston is re-broadcasting Game 7 of that Celtics-Bucks first round series Saturday as part of our "Classic Celtics" series.

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Al Horford and Terry Rozier were the stars that night for a scrappy Celtics squad, dropping 26 points each to power Boston past Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. in a 112-96 win that advanced the team to the second round.

Our re-broadcast of the 2018 Celtics-Bucks Game 7 begins at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Here's how to watch:

When: Saturday, April 11, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Boston
Streaming: NBCSportsBoston.com

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