Marcus Smart put together a career night Wednesday as he and the surging Celtics embarrassed the Western Conference’s fourth-seeded Utah Jazz in a game that was never close at TD Garden.
Smart recorded nine of his career-high 13 assists in the first quarter as Boston raced out to a 15-point advantage and turned it into a 28-point win, 125-97, against Donovan Mitchell and company. Smart, who entered Wednesday’s game averaging just shy of six assists per game, previously had a career-best of 12, which he set and tied during Boston’s extended win streak. The Celtics, of note, now have won 23 of their last 27 games.
The outstanding output had Smart thinking big-picture, though, recalling how some naysayers were down on the 28-year-old veteran taking over the starting point guard duties entering the 2021-22 campaign. It doesn’t cause him to feel any sort of vindication, however.
“Not really for me because I know, knew, (have) known what I can do and who I am as a point guard, as a player,” Smart said on a postgame video conference. “My whole career I’ve been a point guard, went to college as a point guard, got drafted as a point guard. To be actually used as a point guard, I consider it that I’m probably in the right position that fits me and also helps this team. So I wouldn’t say it’s any gratification for me. But I’m sure it’s you know, in a simple fact that my teammates the gratification, you know, me being that person in the right spot to run guys. So, something I’ve been doing my whole life, something I’m gonna continue to do.”
Smart and the Celtics continued to make the game look incredibly easy during their rout of the Jazz. Boston kept the ball moving, made the extra pass and ultimately turned good looks into great looks. The Celtics finished with a season-best 37 assists against Utah, and it helped Boston shoot 53% from long range (19-for-36) and 60% from the floor (50-for-84).
“Just selfless,” Smart said. “We’re thinking great shot every time down and that’s sometimes you have to sacrifice a good one to get that, you might be the one that’s sacrificing. So that’s just our mentality on the offensive end, just get a good shot every time down the floor.”
Smart added five points on 2-for-3 from the floor in 27 minutes perhaps best depicting the difference in talk radio hosts’ outlook at the start of the season.
“For me, it’s really just taking what the defense gives me, a lot of teams play me for the pass, that’s when I have to become a little selfish and take those shots because nine times out of 10 it’s me that is open,” Smart said. “But you know, really just creating, beating my guy, waiting for the other guy to help up and really setting my team up. Especially when my teammates are going, hitting a couple shots early, try to get it back to him and keep them hot. And for me that’s really it as a point guard.”
Jaylen Brown complimented Smart effusively for helping Boston not only Wednesday, but really playing a leading role in helping the group turn the season around.
“Yeah, Marcus has been great, man. Marcus has been running the show,” Brown said after the win. “Trusting him to be the point person and he’s made it easier for everybody. So, tip my hat to Marcus. Marcus has done a great job. We believe in him, we empower him. What he does on both sides of the ball is great for us and it’s a big reason on why our team has really, really turned it around. So give credit where credit is due. Marcus has been a huge anchor on offense and defense for us that has led to the results that we see now.”
Smart and the Celtics will look to keep it going while taking their five-game win streak into Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves after three days off.