Celtics

Throw out the stat sheet: Feisty Marcus Smart vital to Celtics' success

Throw out the stat sheet: Feisty Marcus Smart vital to Celtics' success

BOSTON – There were six players on the Boston Celtics roster that had more points scored than Marcus Smart on Tuesday.

Five of his teammates logged more minutes. 

And yet as you start to sort through all that went into Boston’s 107-94 Game 2 win against Cleveland, you will be hard-pressed to find any Celtic whose play was more vital to the team’s success than Smart who tallied a near double-double with 11 points and nine assists. 

“Marcus always makes plays at the right time,” said LeBron James. “He has a really uncanny ability to get into the lane and either creates for himself or create for others, and he did that tonight … he’s always been very productive for their ball club.”

Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue echoed similar sentiments about Smart.

“He makes winning plays,” said Lue, a former Celtics assistant coach. “He makes tough plays. Like we said before, if it’s 50/50 balls, he’s going to get it. If it’s a loose ball, offensive rebound they need to have, he’s going to get it. We’ve got to be able to find someone who can match his toughness.”

Good luck, coach. 

Because Smart’s toughness has been difficult to compete with, let alone match by any individual player or team. 

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And he displays that toughness at both ends of the floor, healthy or banged up.

In the second quarter, Smart was favoring his left knee at one point in the middle of a play. Moments later, he came up with a steal, limping at the time, that led to a Celtics lay-up. 

And that doesn’t even include him diving on the floor or into the stands, or standing up for a teammate who believes was being treated unfairly like the two-handed shove by J.R. Smith into Al Horford’s back on a lob attempt.

Smart got in Smith’s face and soon officials and players stepped in to separate the two before both were whistled for technical fouls and Smith’s foul on Horford was upgraded to a flagrant-one. 

“He’s a true competitor,” Brad Stevens said of Smart. “He matches his intensity with a physical toughness. People talk about him all the time. Sometimes they focus on things that don’t matter, and the other times they focus on that he impacts winning. We are really glad he’s on our team.”

From an early age, Smart understood the best way for him to impact the game is bring a heightened level of toughness, regardless of who he’s playing against. 

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So when told about Lue’s comments about needing to find a Cleveland player to match Smart’s toughness, “that’s me,” Smart said and then added, “That’s how I was raised. I’m the youngest of four boys. My whole life I had to fight. I had to get down and do things in order to secure my spot in the household. So coming on to the court, it’s nothing different."

Smart added, “we’re the underdogs. We’re coming in, Cleveland is picked to beat us. We’ve got to come and give energy, extraordinary energy all the time, and I just try to be that spark plug.”

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David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz doesn't only come through in the clutch when he's in the batter's box.

He also delivers in clutch situations off the field. Take Al Horford's wedding for example. The Celtics big man had a last-minute wedding in the Dominican Republic and desperately needed a car to pick up his wife-to-be. Big Papi saved the day, sending Horford his Phantom and a driver. He even let them keep the car for a couple of days.

Horford told the story to the NBCS Camera Guys, who you should definitely follow on Twitter if you haven't already. . .

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Marcus Morris evaluates his job defending LeBron: 'I did a (expletive) job'

Marcus Morris evaluates his job defending LeBron: 'I did a (expletive) job'

CLEVELAND – There was plenty of blame pie to go around the Boston Celtics following their 116-86 Game 3 beating by Cleveland. 

But no Celtic seemed to be taking ownership of his role in the defeat, more than Marcus Morris who acknowledged his poor play particularly on defending LeBron James.

“Personally, I did a (expletive) job defensively against LeBron,” Morris told reporters following Boston’s Sunday afternoon practice at Quicken Loans Arena. “He (James) was just too comfortable when I was guarding him.”

In the first two games of this series, James was just 8-for-23 shooting (34.8 percent) with a total of 22 points with 13 assists and five turnovers when defended by Morris. 

On Saturday, James tallied 14 points when defended by Morris on 5-for-9 shooting according to NBA.com/stats, along with five assists and just one turnover.

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As the team poured over the film from Saturday night’s loss, there were several contributors to one of the worst losses ever under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Morris knows this. 

But he also knows that how he fares against James will go a long way in determining whether the Celtics can emerge victorious in Game 4 which would then put them one win away from a trip to the NBA Finals. Despite his struggles against James on Saturday, Morris and the rest of the Celtics haven’t lost any faith that when all is said and done, things will work out for him and the Celtics.

“Very confident. Very confident,” Morris said when asked about the team’s level of confidence right now. 

“I’m 100 percent sure it won’t be the same (Celtics) team on Monday,” Morris said.

LINEUP CHANGE? Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens won’t rule out making a change to the team’s starting lineup for Game 4 on Monday. If there is a change, it would likely involve Marcus Morris returning to the bench while being replaced by Aron Baynes or potentially Semi Ojeleye. A case can be made for why Stevens would start either guy. In Baynes, Boston would have Al Horford matched up against Kevin Love while Baynes would have to battle with Tristan Thompson underneath the rim. Such a move would also bolster Boston’s bench with the return of Morris to the second unit.

LARKIN PROGRESS: Shane Larkin's left shoulder injury suffered continues to improve, but there's still no timetable for when he'll be healthy enough to return to the Celtics lineup. Following Boston’s practice on Sunday, Larkin and a member of the Celtics’ training staff were playing catch with several feet of space in between them. While it’s certainly a good sign to see Larkin throwing the ball with some distance, he remains highly unlikely to play in this series.  

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