Playing Malcolm Brogdon Over Marcus Smart In Crunch Time Right Call Vs. Bulls

Smart played only 1:43 in the fourth quarter


November 4

For the majority of crunch time against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, it was strange to not see Marcus Smart all over the court.

And while Smart did make one of his quintessential winning plays by keeping an offensive rebound alive with just over 40 seconds remaining, the Celtics really didn’t use him to close out the Bulls and notch a 123-119 win at TD Garden.

Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla, who is keeping that label for now, practically benched Smart during the stretch run in favor of Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White.

It ended up being the right choice by Mazzulla as Brogdon was an offensive catalyst off the bench, netting a season-high 25 points on an incredibly efficient 9-for-10 shooting.

“I’m comfortable finishing games,” Brogdon told reporters, per the team. “I’ve been doing it my whole career.”

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White also proved his worth, hitting a couple of key baskets in the final minutes, including sinking a 3-pointer with 1:07 left. Brogdon ended up playing a season-high 29 minutes as his time on the court chewed into Smart’s playing time. Smart recorded a season-low 25 minutes played, including only seeing 1:43 of action in the fourth quarter, which was the least amount of minutes played in the stanza by any member of the Celtics who saw the floor.

Some of that had to do with Smart being in foul trouble, which the veteran guard can only blame himself for. Mazzulla put Smart back into the game with seven minutes left in regulation, only for Smart to pick up an offensive foul and a shooting foul within 37 seconds. That put Smart at five fouls and forced him back to the bench.

Boston did have a difficult time closing out Chicago as DeMar DeRozan’s 46-point explosion kept the Bulls hanging around after they trailed by 14 in the final frame.

With 1:06 remaining following White’s triple and with the Celtics leading by five, Mazzulla inserted Smart back into the game in place of White. Getting the reigning Defensive Player of the Year back onto the floor for defensive purposes didn’t exactly work out as intended. The Bulls responded to White’s trey with one of their own on the following possession as Smart drifted too far off Nikola Vucevic, who buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

Credit Smart for his awareness of Al Horford’s missed three to battle off Vucevic down low to keep the ball alive so Jayson Tatum could grab the offensive rebound and go to the free-throw line with 41.9 seconds left. But other than that, Smart didn’t contribute at all to the Celtics fending off the Bulls.

Smart also nearly seriously injured himself going for a rebound following Tatum’s missed free throw. Trying to draw a foul call, Smart landed awkwardly and hard on the parquet, and stayed down as the Celtics scrambled defensively without him. The Celtics were lucky that Patrick Williams missed an open, game-tying 3-pointer with Smart down on the other end.

How Smart handles not playing down the stretch will be the biggest question of all to come out of this. Mazzulla could easily play Brogdon over Smart with Brogdon’s poised play keeping the Celtics calm in pressure-packed moments.

But if it becomes a trend with Smart having to watch the end of games from the bench, it’s hard to see him enjoying that scenario one bit. And if he’s divisive about it in any way, it will be the first real challenge for Mazzulla.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
Boston Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon
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