Kemba Walker put yet another defender on skates while hitting a 19-foot step-back jumper to give the Boston Celtics a three-point lead in crunch time. Jaylen Brown forced a Toronto Raptors turnover to get the Celtics the ball with with 32 seconds left. Jayson Tatum hit a pair of free throws to give himself a new playoff career high, and the Celtics a five-point lead with 3:17 left.
And while all those plays were crucial down the stretch, they may not have mattered without Marcus Smart’s fourth quarter heroics.
Smart scored 16 of his 19 points in the final quarter, hitting five 3-pointers in the period including three on three consecutive trips down the floor.
His first one cut the Celtics deficit to five. His second cut it to four. His third cut it to one. His fourth tied it at 82-all. And his fifth, three minutes after his first, tied it again, 85-85 with 7:55 left. Oh yeah, and that it came after Smart went 1-for-7 from the field in the first three quarters.
“I just told myself the first half, the shots I was taking were rimming in and out, they were great shots,” Smart told reporters postgame, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “I kept telling myself all you need is for one to go in and you’ll be right back there. And once I saw the first one go in I told myself ‘Next time I catch it I’m shooting.’
“… That’s just how we’ve been playing in the bubble with this team, really trusting one another and they just keep telling me ‘We need you to be you, make big plays.’ That’s just what I did,” Smart added.
Tuesday’s performance is just one of many that have left a lasting impact on both coach Brad Stevens and Smart’s Celtics teammates.
“Marcus has always affected winning in a big way. He does whatever needs to be done to win. And tonight we needed a little jolt offensively,” Stevens said. “… But Marcus has been a winning player since he’s gotten here. I’ve said many times we’ve been in the playoffs every year since he’s been here and that’s not a coincidence.”
And while maybe the public has seen Smart have a larger impact with his defensive prowess, his offensive production in Game 2 wasn’t a surprise to anyone else.
“He’s been a high 30s 3-point shooter each of the last two years. He’s a good shooter,” Stevens said. “When he first came into the league I think he was going to focus on that, work on it, improve. He’s now made himself into that. That’s been a lot of hard work on his part and he deserves the credit for that. Good shooters should have confidence. They should step into it like they know they’re going to make it. We certainly have confidence in him and those other guys.”
Both Walker and Tatum agreed.
“There’s only one Marcus Smart. There’s only one. He’s a different beast,” Walker said postgame. “… He’s just really fun to be on the court with.”
Tatum added: “I ain’t never played with nobody like Smart, I ain’t never met someone like Smart. He is one of a kind… Anytime I’m going to war, I’ll take him on my team every day of the week.”
Here are some other notes from Tuesday’s win:
— Smart wasn’t the only one with the “unwavering confidence” in his offensive game, either. Walker scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter after an abysmal 2-for-14 display over the first three quarters.
“Yeah, I don’t think you can say enough about that. That’s the part, that unwavering confidence, that if you just keep doing the right things the ball will find the net,” Stevens said of Walker. “Kemba’s shots were huge. The pull-up off the side ball screen with about a minute and a half, two minutes left was enormous. For him to struggle like that and come back and make it, was great.”
— Stevens lauded center Robert Williams for his first-quarter play. Williams scored 10 of his 11 points in the game in the final six minutes of the first quarter, helping Boston erase a six-point deficit when he entered to tie the game.
“He’s the only reason we were in the game in the first quarter. I did not think we started well, I thought our first six minutes were sloppy and I didn’t think we got to our spots,” Stevens said. “I think the pace Toronto was playing at was much difference than our pace. But when he came in he kind of changed it for us, made enough plays to get us into the quarter tied. You know, he’s been great, But we’re going to keep rotating those guys … everybody else just had to be ready. That rotating center spot has been good for us. “
— The Celtics will return to the floor in Orlando for Game 3 against the Raptors on Thursday. Tip is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images