Marcus Smart has developed the reputation of being a pesky role player, but the tenacious guard played like a bona fide superstar Sunday night in Cleveland.
Thanks in large part to a dazzling 27-point performance from Smart, the Boston Celtics were able to pick up a 111-108 comeback victory over the Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
One of the biggest knocks on Smart is his shooting, specifically from deep. The Celtics guard has struggled from beyond the arc his entire career, as he’s a 29 percent shooter from 3-point land.
But Smart’s shooting woes were nowhere to be found in Game 3, as he converted on 7 of 10 3-point shot attempts, including three in the third quarter, to help the Celtics ignite a rally and chip away at a 21-point deficit.
Smart’s performance was especially clutch for Boston considering the circumstances. The Celtics will be without Isaiah Thomas for the remainder of the postseason, as the star guard re-aggravated a nagging hip injury in Game 2. Smart knew his team needed a spark, and he credited his offensive explosion to the support of his teammates.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens provided Smart an opportunity by implementing him into the starting lineup in Thomas’ absence. Smart has earned his minutes in this series, and Stevens seemed to know that he’d have a special night.
“When it?s a big moment, you know that kid is going to rise to the occasion,” Stevens said of Smart to reporters. “He always has.”
And while Stevens knew Smart would come up big, Smart himself might have been a little surprised by his performance. The guard told CSNNE’s A. Sherrod Blakely that he hasn’t had that strong of a 3-point performance in quite some time.
Not only was Smart red-hot offensively, he also was strong on the defensive end. He picked up two steals in the contest, and his relentless defense noticeably affected the Cavaliers. Smart and the Celtics were especially strong on defense down the stretch, as they kept LeBron James scoreless in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics’ effort and desire was evidenced in the second half of Game 3, as they simply outworked the Cavs to muscle out the comeback victory. Boston’s chances of winning weren’t very high entering Sunday, but Smart and his teammates prided themselves on maintaining their work ethic.
“We just told each other that no matter what happens, we?ve got to be the hardest-playing team,” Smart said, per the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach.
You can’t expect this strong of an offensive performance from Smart every night, but Game 3 showcased what his game is all about. His energy and drive provide the Celtics with a spark that can lift the team when it’s down.
The C’s were down in Game 3, but Smart’s will helped Boston get back in a series in which most people already had counted it out.
Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images