BOSTON — One play Friday afternoon epitomized everything the Celtics want to see from Marcus Smart.
During the third quarter of an eventual 109-107 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Jared Sullinger poked the ball out of the hands of Nets point guard Jarrett Jack. Smart, who had been double-teaming Jack with Sullinger on the play, dove after it. The rookie managed to corral the ball and hooked a pass to Jeff Green, who converted it into an easy dunk at the other end.
Nets big man Kevin Garnett rewarded Smart for his efforts with a rear end to the face.
Garnett is known for his fiery temperament on the court, but no hard feelings followed this particular exchange. Smart gave Garnett a tap on the back as he climbed to his feet, and KG reciprocated.
“I admire the young guy,” the former Celtics star said after the game. “I admire the young guy’s work ethic and how hard he plays. Obviously, they brought him in here, and Danny (Ainge) knows talent. It was just a good hustle play, and just a little tap on the back to say ‘good play.’ Nothing more, nothing less than that.”
Smart, who started at point guard for the second time in three games, enjoyed one of the better all-around performances of his young career. Boston’s top draft pick finished with five points, six assists, four steals and three rebounds in 20 minutes of action.
— Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green both returned to form for the Celtics, scoring 19 and 22 points, respectively, one game after combining to score just four. Unfortunately for the C’s, their fourth-quarter ineptitude returned, as well. The Nets finished the game on a 21-10 run after trailing by as many as 11 in the final frame.
— Gerald Wallace did not see action until the game’s final play but nearly ended up playing hero. He hit Sullinger with a Hail Mary of an inbounds pass with the Celtics down by two, but the forward’s fadeaway jumper rimmed out as time expired.
Wallace is Brad Stevens’ go-to guy in late-game inbounds situations, with his resume including an assist on last season’s Green game-winner in Miami.
“He watches a lot of Tom Brady highlights,” Green quipped after Friday’s game.
— Celtics center Tyler Zeller said before (and after) the game that he’s never been subjected to Garnett’s legendary trash talk.
“I’ve never been good enough for him to say anything to me,” Zeller said.
GIFs via @MrTrpleDouble10