Brad Stevens Backs Marcus Smart After Celtics Guard’s Brutal Game 3

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No Boston Celtics player performed particularly well in the Game 3 of the team’s Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Washington Wizards. But none had a worse night than Marcus Smart.

Smart, who’s cracked double figures just once in nine games this postseason, slogged through one of his sloppiest games as a Celtic on Thursday, committing a career-high eight turnovers (half of Boston’s team total) in 25 minutes as the Wizards thrashed the Celtics 116-89.

The 23-year-old guard, who took himself out of Game 1 on Sunday after committing a series of miscues early in the fourth quarter, also had his worst shooting performance of the playoffs in Game 3, going 2-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-4 from 3-point range to finish with nine points.

It was a forgettable performance from one of Boston’s most important bench players. But Celtics coach Brad Stevens does not want him to dwell on it.

Stevens dedicated a portion of his Friday conference call with reporters to pumping up Smart’s confidence.

“Good players all go through tough stretches,” Stevens said. “Ultimately, they find their way out. I think, at the end of the day, Marcus is a huge part of our team. Marcus knows he’s a huge part of our team. We know he’s a huge part of our team. And we trust he’s going to play great.

“I wouldn’t trade his passion for anything. It’s the competitiveness that makes him who he is. And it’s a passion that makes him who he is. There can be mistakes with effort that come from that, and that’s OK. That’s what we love about him.”

Game 3 was the most heated contest yet in what has been a physical and at times hostile second-round series. The game featured eight technical fouls (four on each side), one flagrant foul and three ejections, with Boston’s Terry Rozier and Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. and Brandon Jennings all being sent to the locker room.

Oubre’s dismissal came after Kelly Olynyk leveled him with an illegal screen during the second quarter. Olynyk was called for a personal foul on the play, and Oubre went off, charging at the Celtics big man and knocking him to the floor.

Referees quickly swooped in to separate the teams before any punches could be thrown, and Stevens said he was thankful the incident did not escalate further.

“I’m not sure that that was a fight, per se,” the coach said. “I thought that when Oubre took umbrage to the screen and then ran at Kelly, from there, to be honest, in that moment, I thought on both sides, cooler heads prevailed. Because that probably could have been worse than it was.”

The Celtics hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. They’ll play Game 4 on Sunday in Washington before the series shifts back to TD Garden for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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