The Boston Celtics faced a daunting challenge when they entered their second-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Not only were they down 0-1 after a tough loss in Game 1, but they were also unsure of whether their starting point guard, Marcus Smart, would be able to play in Game 2. Smart had sustained a chest injury in the first game, and his status was listed as questionable on the Celtics’ injury report.
Marcus Smart: “I’m sore as shit. I’m really sore. But I’ll be OK.”
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) May 4, 2023
However, the Celtics received a glimmer of hope when Marcus Smart was ultimately cleared to play. Despite his injury, he played a pivotal role in their Game 2 win, finishing with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, and one blocked shot. He made seven of his 14 field-goal attempts, proving that he was still a force to be reckoned with on the court.
Through the Celtics’ first seven games of the playoffs, Smart had been averaging an impressive 16.0 points per game, 4.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.4 steals, with shooting splits of 50 percent from the field, 36.6 percent from beyond the arc, and 78.9 percent from the free-throw line. These numbers were a significant improvement over his regular-season averages of 11.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game, with shooting splits of 41.5 percent from the field, 33.6 percent from three-point range, and 74.6 percent from the charity stripe.
Smart’s tenacity and determination were evident in his postgame remarks, in which he described the feeling of playing through a chest injury as “just fighting through the pain.” He also credited his teammates for their support and encouragement, noting that they had helped him to stay focused and motivated throughout the game.
Despite the challenges they faced, the Celtics were able to come together as a team and secure a crucial win in Game 2. Smart’s resilience and toughness were just two of the factors that contributed to their success, but they were undoubtedly important ones. As the series continued, Smart and his teammates would need to continue to bring their A-game if they hoped to advance to the next round of the playoffs and keep their championship aspirations alive.
The Crucial Role of Marcus Smart in Elevating the Boston Celtics’ Ceiling: A Tale of Redemption, Versatility, and Defensive Mastery
Marcus Smart’s performance in the Celtics’ first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks was a tale of two halves. He struggled in Game 5, which ended with him committing a costly foul on Trae Young. However, in Game 6, Smart returned to form and was praised by his coach and teammates for his focus and poise. Smart’s defensive efforts were a key factor in the Celtics’ victory, as he was able to effectively shut down Young in the second half. He was also instrumental in crunch time, making a key assist and hitting a clutch 3-pointer to help seal the win.
Marcus Smart drains the 3-PT and Celtics take a BIG lead 🔥
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) April 28, 2023
Heading into the second round against the Philadelphia 76ers, Smart’s defensive versatility will be crucial. Whether he is tasked with guarding Joel Embiid or James Harden and Tyrese Maxey in the backcourt, Smart’s ability to disrupt the opposing team’s offense will be vital to the Celtics’ success. His performance against Harden earlier this season, in which he limited the superstar to just two field goals and forced him into two turnovers, bodes well for his potential impact in this series.
Ultimately, Smart’s importance to the Celtics cannot be overstated. When he plays with focus and intensity on both ends of the court, his team’s ceiling is elevated significantly. If Smart can continue to channel his DPOY energy and make impactful plays in the second round, the Celtics will have a much better chance of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.