Marcus Smart continues to do Marcus Smart things.
Boston clung to a mere three-point lead with less than 10 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game against the Thunder when the Celtics guard picked the pocket of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, giving Boston the edge it needed to claim a 112-111 victory over Oklahoma City at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The move ultimately went down as another game-deciding play, one Smart felt compelled to make at the moment.
“When we switched, me and Jayson (Tatum), Shai kind of left the ball out in front and I was close enough, and I did what I do and came up with the steal,” Smart said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “Like I said, I just felt like I needed to make a play and it was right there for me to make it. So, I made the decision to go for it and got it.”
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) February 9, 2020
Smart’s play prompted plenty of praise from head coach Brad Stevens and teammates.
“Great play, huge play, obviously,” Stevens said. “We had a couple of possessions there where we were either rushed, or whatever the case may be, and we made some mistakes. But that was an unbelievable steal by Marcus.”
Kemba Walker even took a moment to campaign for his teammate as the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“He’s different. He’s different. That’s what he’s here for,” Walker said. “He brings a different type of energy to our ball club. We love having him out there — Defensive Player of the year. No question. With plays like that, there’s not many other guys making plays like that, in clutch situations like that.”
“Every time we need it,” Tatum said of Smart’s ability to make the crunch-time plays. “He definitely saved us today, saved me from the two turnovers I had late in the stretch. So, that was a big-time play by him.”
Of course, Walker’s campaign for Smart is strengthened by Smart’s history of game-changing plays. Smart has clinched five games this season via steal, block or rebound this season, per The Athletic’s Jared Weiss
That was the 5th game-clinching steal, block or rebound by Marcus Smart this year.
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) February 9, 2020
Here are some other notes from Sunday’s Celtics-Thunder game:
— The Celtics are much healthier now than they have been lately, and it showed on the court.
With the Celtics at nearly full health (only missing Robert Williams), the starting five of Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis, Walker and Tatum combine for 96 points.
Walker finished with a game-high 27 points in 30 minutes, Tatum added 26 points in 35 minutes and Brown added 17 points in 34 minutes. Hayward and Theis rounded out the starting line up with 13 points each, as all five started finished in double figures.
“It was fun,” Walker said. “It’s always good to have the guys back. When we’re healthy, I think we’re just tough to beat. We’re trying to get or rhythm because it’s like once somebody comes back somebody else goes down. We just want to stay healthy, which is the toughest thing to do in this league, but we’re getting better each and every day.”
Walker hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, while Tatum was a big help on the glass with 11 rebounds during his double-double performance. Both Hayward (10 rebounds) and Theis (11 rebounds) also finished with double-doubles.
— The Celtics got back in the game with a fast start in the second half.
After leading by nine points at the half, and 10 after the Thunder made a free throw for a technical foul assessed to Smart, the Celtics opened with a quick, 7-0 run in the first 1:27 of the second half. Hayward, Tatum and Brown each made shots during the short stretch.
— Brown’s ankle troubles continued Sunday.
Not only did the swingman re-injure his right ankle, but he rolled his left ankle as well. Right now, however, he isn’t sure what the next steps will be.
“I guess talk to the medical staff and figure out what the best plan is, but I rolled my ankle three or four times in the last two weeks so it’s been tough,” Brown said. “I rolled my other one, my left one trying to compensate on the right one, so I don’t know what side to limit on right now.”
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images