No one tell Marcus Smart that it’s only the preseason, and that the Boston Celtics loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night didn’t actually count against their record.
Because if you did, it probably wouldn’t make a difference.
The NBA All-Defensive player set the tone early in the game, taking multiple charges and making diving steals. But rather than cringing every time the guard threw his body on the ground in such a low-stakes game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens commended the effort.
“I think there’s a contagiousness that’s really important, so he’s got to be himself,” Stevens told reporters after Boston’s 108-99 loss. “Obviously, we have a lot of room where we have to improve, and we’re going to be a lot better at the end than we are at the beginning as you could see tonight. But if he doesn’t play that way and we don’t play that way, we’re in trouble.”
In the box score, Smart’s performance looked a bit disappointing. He had just four point in 22 minutes with two assists and one steal.
But defensively he was everywhere, and there was no calming him down.
“I don’t think he knows how,” newcomer Jeff Teague said of Smart. “He’s not like that in practice. I think that’s what makes him special, one of the best defenders in the league, his effort at all times. For the younger guys to see him doing that in a preseason game lets you know that your effort has to be at an all time high.
“He’s out there in the preseason taking charges and diving for loose balls, we really don’t have no excuse as a team.”
Rookie guard Payton Pritchard’s grit certainly has impressed Marcus Smart in the short amount of time they’ve spent together. And playing with him for the first time in a game setting, Pritchard got to see the “Marcus Smart effect” first-hand.
“It’s an example of how we should play and how you win games,” Pritchard told reporters. “You need guys like that. Marcus Smart, he’s a dog and he does what it takes. He’s a perfect leader for that.”