BOSTON — The Celtics took the court Sunday evening without the services of starting point guard Marcus Smart, who was serving a suspension for his crotch punch on San Antonio Spurs center Matt Bonner.
The move earned Smart an ejection from Friday’s loss, and head coach Brad Stevens was not caught off guard when the NBA slapped the rookie with a one-game ban, as well.
“I thought it was predictable,” Stevens said before Sunday’s matchup with the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden. “So, I’m not surprised. Hopefully, it’s an isolated incident and we move on from it. But we said it the other night, I felt like after watching (the play) again before I talked to the media and now I’m seeing it, I mean, that’s clearly an unacceptable play. As I said the other night, it’s as simple as that.”
The ejection was Smart’s second in eight games, and he now has accumulated four flagrant foul points this season. If he reaches six, he’ll automatically earn another one-game suspension
“To me, when I watched the other one, I didn’t see what I saw in the second one,” Stevens said of Smart’s first ejection, which came in a March 8 loss to the Orlando Magic. “So, I don’t have a concern other than he’s up to four points now. You’ve got to be able to balance that spirit with doing the right thing, and he will. He will.
“I think he’s still young enough where he has to be aware of that, but he also has to continue growing and doing the right thing all of the time. What we love about Marcus is his competitive nature, his competitive spirit, but he has to handle that situation better. There’s no question about that.”
The Celtics entered their date with the Pistons very lean at the point guard position, as Isaiah Thomas also was unavailable as he continues to recover from a bruised lower back. The team is hoping for a mid-to-late-week return for Thomas, who has missed the last seven games.
Jae Crowder filled the vacant spot in the starting lineup against Detroit, with Evan Turner handling point guard duties
“It’s a tough challenge,” Stevens said. “We’ve got our other point guard still sitting out, so we’re going to have to — usually the ‘next man up’ applies to injuries — but we’re going to have to have next man up regardless, and I trust the guys that are playing (Sunday night).”
“It’s tough being without two of our very important pieces, but we’ve got other guys that can step up,” forward Jonas Jerebko added. “Jae has taken the spot in the starting rotation, and we’re just going to go from there. We’ve still got a very good team, and we’re just going to go out there and play.”
Jerebko said he has not seen video of Smart’s shot on Bonner, but he echoed his coach in saying the 21-year-old must learn to keep his emotions in check.
“I just told him that he’s one of our most important players,” Jerebko said. “He’s young and all that, but you’ve just got to think about what you do out there and just be smart. I haven’t seen the play … but if the NBA suspends you for one game, you did something wrong.”
Thumbnail photo via Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY Sports Images