March 6 always has been kind to Marcus Smart.
First off, it’s his 21st birthday — which the Boston Celtics point guard celebrated Friday in New Orleans.
How exactly did Smart celebrate? The way he always has: By winning.
“My sophomore, junior and senior year (of high school), to go to the state championship game, was on my birthday,” Smart said before the Friday’s matchup with the Pelicans, via Celtics.com, “and we won all three years. So I guess you could say I play well on my birthday.”
That trend continued Friday. Smart didn’t put up huge numbers against New Orleans (seven points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals), but his team gave him a nice present, racing away from the Pelicans in the fourth quarter to win 104-98.
Some other notes from Friday’s battle in the Big Easy:
— The Celtics showed off some fantastic ball movement on this third-quarter basket by Brandon Bass:
Bass, a Baton Rouge, La., native, reportedly reserved 50 tickets to the game for friends and family. He ended up giving them quite the show, finishing with 17 points and six rebounds and doing a very solid job on Pelicans stud Anthony Davis.
“Brandon was unbelievable in the halfcourt on him,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the game. “I mean, he did a really good job. Really good job.
“Brandon’s a hard guy to post up. He’s a hard guy to shoot over because he’s got good length, and he jumps and he challenges. You have to play really well to stop that guy — or not stop him, but slow him down.”
Davis still turned in a strong showing, with game highs in points (29) and rebounds (14), but he went just 3-for-8 from the floor over the final two quarters.
“He was dominant in transition in the first half,” Stevens said. “He had the one or two lobs on the halfcourt sets, but hey, he’s going to get some of that. We did a much better job in the second half. You’ve got to almost find him in transition like a shooter and meet him early, because if he gets to the rim, you’re toast.”
— Speaking of bigs, Kelly Olynyk played his second game for the Celtics since returning from an ankle injury. He went 1-for-9 on field-goal attempts but did a nice job of getting to the foul line, converting on six of his eight free throws to finish with eight points in 22 minutes.
“I thought Kelly, though he didn’t shoot well, played a solid game,” Stevens said. “I started him in the second half because I felt like skill was more important than anything else to stretch Davis and Asik away from the basket.”
— With the Celtics, Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers all winning Friday and the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets both losing, here’s what the Eastern Conference playoff race now looks like:
Boston’s 25 wins matches last year’s season total with 22 games still left to play.
— Winning in Western Conference arenas used to be next to impossible for the Celtics under Stevens. Now? Not so much:
Celtics were 0-19 on road against Western Conference in Brad Stevens era back on Jan. 19. Since then? 5-4 on road vs. West.—
Brian Robb (@CelticsHub) March 07, 2015
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images