Boston defeated Toronto in its best-of-7 series (4-3) and have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. They’ll be taking on the Miami Heat.
At the Raptors’ expense, Smart posted a gallery of four pictures of him and teammates Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Daniel Theis, and Grant Williams along with a caption that read “THE KING OF THE NORTH!” – Toronto’s well-known slogan that’s a play on the fact Toronto is north of every other NBA team and of the popular TV show “Game of Thrones.”
Smart is arguably the biggest reason why the Celtics are heading to their fourth conference finals in three years. He not only made an emphatic game-winning play – one that’s going to be talked about for years amongst basketball fans in Boston – he also made timely plays offensively throughout the final frame when the Raptors crept back in the latter minutes.
Toronto sliced its nine-point deficit down to two (89-87) with 1:21 left to play. Off a long miss, Pascal Siakam found Norman Powell in-transition making his way up the court full-steam ahead from the pack with only one person to beat.
Powell crossed over to his left past Smart, angled for a layup, and still had his shot pinned against the glass by the lone recently named All-Defensive guard of the league.
“Yep,” Brad Stevens said when asked about Smart’s block on Powell. “The hustle, the block, the toughness. He got a couple loose balls, he almost came up with another couple rebounds there toward the end of the game. Yeah, I mean, he’s a huge part of our team, he’s a huge part of our organization and I said this before the playoffs, we’ve got a chance to play in this great event every year he’s been here and it’s not a coincidence.”
From there, the Celtics kept the Raptors at bay on their way to clinching a conference finals showdown against Miami.
Marcus Smart’s ‘Game-Winning Play’ in Game 7
Stevens’ inaugural campaign with the Celtics is the newly-extended head coach’s lone season that didn’t result in a playoff appearance. Smart, who was drafted sixth overall in 2014 and is currently the longest-tenured member of the Celtics, has been a key contributor for Boston in all five of Stevens’ postseasons and his latest series against the Raptors was his best.
He connected on 11-of-20 from deep in Games 1, 2 combined, averaged 17 points while shooting 49% in all four of the Celtics’ wins, and in those same games, Smart’s terrific defense held Lowry to 14.7 points on 30.7% shooting.
“I loved it,” Smart said of his team’s best-of-7 series. “We played a great Raptors team. We knew coming into this series that it was going to be a battle. We knew they weren’t going to lay down but neither were we so we knew it was going to be as tough as nails and the team that was toughest mentally and physically was going to win. Tonight that showed.”
Marcus Smart Talks About “The Block”
When asked about the signature stop in Game 7, Smart could recall his exact thought process seconds before the play.
“The block – it’s funny because as soon as Norman caught the ball instantly I remembered last game that exact same play, he came at me full court and got the and-1 in the same type of little standard where, close game, and it put them up I think three or something like that – it was a tie game.”
Smart knew it was little room for error in transition. He knew one wrong move could grant Powell another 3-point play; another momentum-swinging finish for the Raptors.
“So when he caught the ball, in my mind I was just telling myself, ‘he has to dunk it,’ I’m not going to give him no foul,” Smart recalled. “‘I’m just going to meet him up top and see who wins the battle.’ I bet on myself 110% of the time and I’m first-team All-Defense for a reason and I believe in that wholeheartedly.”