Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as they have for the entirety of the young season, shined on Sunday. The duo combined for 55 points as their late-game heroics muscled the Boston Celtics to a 122-120 redemption victory over the Detroit Pistons.
However, as brilliant as Tatum and Brown have been thus far, it remains the somewhat unheralded Marcus Smart who continues to be the heartbeat of the team.
Don’t take my word for it, take Brown’s, who heaped praise in Smart’s direction following Sunday’s victory.
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Jaylen Brown Praises Marcus Smart
“Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of this team,” Brown said glowingly of his fellow guard.
“His energy and his poise on the offensive end have been great for us,” said Brown, who led the way with a game-high 31 points. “We’ve asked him to step up and play the point guard position and he’s matched that. He’s got me easy baskets, he’s gotten Jayson easy baskets and he’s gotten himself even baskets as well. I’m proud to see Marcus Smart’s growth and the responsibility that he’s gotten, he’s handled it well in the first seven games.”
With Kemba Walker still working his way back from an offseason knee procedure and Gordon Hayward in Charlotte, the defensive stalwart has been called upon to man a larger ball-handling role this season, as Celtics.com’s Taylor C. Snow brilliantly highlighted:
Entering Sunday’s game, Smart had played 47 percent of his minutes at the point guard position, according to basketball-reference.com. By comparison, last season he only played 23 percent of his minutes at the point and only played eight percent of his minutes at that position the year before.
Smart Thriving as the Quarterback of the Celtics Offense
Smart played 34 minutes in Detroit, scoring 17 points and notching 10 assists against the Pistons, including a few crucial dimes in crunch time to help the Cs improve to 4-3 on the season. Through seven games, the seven-year pro has averaged 12.6 points and 6.7 assists, the latter of which is nearly two assists more per game than his previous career-high.
“I think he’s really tried,” coach Brad Stevens said of Smart. “These seven games, he’s the only guy above five assists on our team. So he’s trying to get us organized, he’s trying to get us in a place where everybody can be successful.”
Smart’s final dish of the night proved to be the most crucial, as he assisted on Jayson Tatum’s game-winning jumper. Smart’s basketball IQ and ability to operate under pressure didn’t go unnoticed by coach Stevens.
“He knew time and score at the end when we were talking in the huddle, and when we got the ball to Jason with however many seconds left to shoot it only with enough time that they would have to heave it,” Steven said. “And so his thoughtfulness in that moment was huge.”
Speaking of Tatum, the All-Star forward joined in on the Smart praise, highlighting the guard’s ability to quarterback the team.
“He’s been running the team,” said Tatum, who registered a career-high 12 assists against Detroit. “Starting point, making sure that we’re in our spots, and just making sure we organize. And he’s been doing a really good job at it.”
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