Celtics

Marcus Smart's sticky fingers help Celtics soar past the Hawks

Marcus Smart's sticky fingers help Celtics soar past the Hawks

BOSTON -- With just under six minutes to play, the Boston Celtics were at a crossroads. 

Boston led by as many as 25 points over the Atlanta Hawks, and yet the Celtics soon found themselves in a fight in which the score was tied at 112. 

Boston’s defense was not very good up to that point in the game.

The Celtics offense wasn’t shabby, but it wasn’t clicking well enough to cover up the problems on defense. 

So the Celtics wound up doing what they seemingly always do in those situations - lean on Marcus Smart. 

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“You can go through a lot of our games that were close, that we end up pulling away or a lot of games like this where you win late, and he makes the play where he just rips the ball away,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

With the scored tied at 112, Smart stole the ball from Atlanta’s Trae Young which led to a 3-pointer by Jaylen Brown to put Boston ahead 115-112. 

Smart would steal the ball later on in the fourth from Young again, resulting in another basket for Brown that pushed Boston’s lead to 121-112. 

Boston would go on to win 129-120 over the Hawks with Smart finishing with a near double-double of 16 points and nine assists along with a season high-tying five steals. 

“He just gets a ball that he’s not supposed to get, gets his hands on a ball that very few people will get their hands on, and he did a great job,” Stevens said. 

While Smart’s improved offensive game has drawn increased attention, his focus night-in, night-out is to have a great defensive presence regardless of who he is assigned to defend. 

“For me, especially beginning of the game I try to make them uncomfortable as I can,” Smart said. “Usually guys take their time at the beginning of a game. I’m trying to speed them up as much as I can; kind of get them off their rhythm.”

And while there is a clear edict from Stevens and the coaching staff that the team has to play better defensively, all agree that the Celtics playing at a great level defensively begins more times than not with the play of Smart. 

“We kind of lean on him for that,” Stevens said. “He’s … that’s his uniqueness, is being able to come up with plays and balls that other people can’t do.”

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NBA Rumors: Romeo Langford will be cleared for full basketball activities by start of Celtics training camp

NBA Rumors: Romeo Langford will be cleared for full basketball activities by start of Celtics training camp

With Celtics training camp set to begin on October 1, there is a bit of good news on one of the team's first round rookies. 

According to Keith Smith, Romeo Langford, who missed all of Summer League recovering from thumb surgery, will be cleared for full basketball activities by the start of camp. 

Langford is the youngest of the Celtics first round picks and arguably the player who needed the most reps during Summer League to get ready for his rookie season in the NBA. While those Summer League reps can't be regained, Langford will at least won't have to miss extra time getting acclimated to his new team. 

In early August, Langford told Tom Westerholm that his thumb was "basically" back to normal, but he hadn't participated in any contact activities. So over the past month-and-a-half, Langford has been healthy enough to continue to work on his jump shot, which the Celtics have begun to overhaul with a ping pong paddle

The Celtics will have to deal with a relatively uncertain future following Kyrie Irving and Al Horford's departures and the arrival of Kemba Walker. They'll need to hit on their draft picks in order to build a young core that can either contend with Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart or one that can be exchanged for a superstar talent that will. Having Langford ready to go at the start of training camp is at least a step in the right direction. 

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who will be the Celtics' most impactful rookie?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who will be the Celtics' most impactful rookie?

When the Boston Celtics open training camp next month, they will have a whopping eight first-year players on the court. That number will include four drafted rookies, two summer league standouts on camp invitations, an undrafted two-way player, and a European import.

In the fourth installment of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our NBC Sports Boston panel to pick which of those rookies will have the biggest impact on the Celtics during the 2019-20 season.

Boston drafted four rookies in Romeo Langford (14th overall), Grant Williams (22), Carsen Edwards (33), and Tremont Waters (51). They later signed undrafted swingman Max Strus to one of their two-way deals, while summer league standouts Javonte Green and Tacko Fall are coming to camp with a chance to compete for a final roster spot. The Celtics also signed French 7-footer Vincent Poirier to add another body to their frontcourt.

That’s a lot of youth and inexperience but, then again, only four Celtics players have more than three years of NBA experience overall in Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, and Enes Kanter. Which is to say that there will be plenty of opportunities for younger players to make an immediate impact if they prove themselves ready for immediate minutes.

Typically, you might lean towards the lottery pick but Langford missed all of summer league while rehabbing from thumb surgery and will be playing a bit of catchup when camp opens.

Given Boston’s new-look frontcourt following the departure of Al Horford and Aron Baynes, it would seem a solid bet to suggest that Grant Williams or Poirier might have the clearest path to contributing. As you’ll read below, our panel leaned heavy in that direction and we’d probably be inclined to agree with their pick.

But we could also make the case for Edwards, an elite bucket-getter at the college level who showed at summer league that he’s not bashful about getting up shots. The departure of Terry Rozier could open an opportunity for backup guard minutes and if Edwards can give a little offensive jolt to the second unit, he could carve out minutes.

Scoring against rotation NBA players won’t be as easy as it was against rookies and roster hopefuls at summer league but Edwards can create his own shot, brings some rugged defense, and will have a chance to stake his claim for backcourt minutes.

Abby Chin: Grant Williams

The Celtics need all the help they can get in the frontcourt. The opportunity is there. And I feel like there’s a lot of hype surrounding the smart, versatile, if a little undersized, Tennessee product. I’m expecting big things.

 

A. Sherrod Blakely: Grant Williams

The team's lack of depth and overall uncertainty in the frontcourt means all their bigs, Grant Williams included, will get a chance to play. He won't wow us with his numbers but his basketball savvy will come in handy on some nights and play a role in the Celtics winning more games than most anticipate.

 

Max Lederman: Grant Williams

Williams already has an NBA body (strength wise, at least) and is a smart, winning player. I was also really impressed with his willingness to let the game come to him in summer league, which shows me he'll be fine in whatever role the team asks him to play. He's also a concrete wall setting screens.

Countdown to C's Camp: Awards predictions>>>

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