Marcus Smart was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, and his performance Monday night helped illustrate why.
Entering their Game 4 matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks needing a win, the Celtics relied heavily on their stars to step up. Offensively, Boston was the beneficiary of a surprising performance by Al Horford, who scored 30 points, setting a new playoff career high and leading the way alongside Jayson Tatum.
Defensively, the Celtics’ greatest contributor was less surprising, as Marcus Smart put together another pesky masterclass on Milwaukee’s two highest scorers. According to Barstool Sports’ Dan Greenberg, Smart held Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday to a combined six points in 44 possessions as the primary defender.
Keeping people from scoring isn’t a new thing for Marcus Smart, but his impact was amplified in Game 4 following the Bucks duo’s large output in Game 3. Holiday scored 25 points in Milwaukee’s 103-101 win Saturday, while Antetokounmpo exploded for 42 points of his own, his 2022 playoff high.
Much like he did with Horford, Antetokounmpo seemed to ignite the fiery performance from Smart, who after the game took exception to the two-time MVP’s actions.
“And then when I tried to help him up… he throws his hand down, then he put his hand up to help,” Smart said. “And then when I tried to help, he took it back, so I’m just like ‘you know what I’m done.’ I tried, I’m not going to keep playing this game with you, dude, so that’s just what it was.”
Smart will have an opportunity to build off his Game 4 performance and revisit with Antetokounmpo in Game 5 on Wednesday night at TD Garden.