The Boston Celtics once again came away victorious on Friday night, notching a 113-103 victory over the Detroit Pistons. The March 11 outing marked Boston’s fifth consecutive win and their 16th in 18 games. The current hot streak has the C’s soaring up the conference ranks, boasting the third-most wins in the East.
Of course, the majority of their run has been headlined by stellar defensive play and offensive fireworks courtesy of Jayson Tatum. While the latter led the way with a game-high 31 points against the Pistons, Boston’s defense left much to be desired — that is for the first 36 minutes of play, at least. Detroit poured in 90 points through three quarters, before Marcus Smart and company buckled down, holding the Pistons to just 15 points in the final frame. In fact, Detroit’s first field goal of the fourth came with 30.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
“The clips that we watched, and what we were seeing in the first half, they were too comfortable,” Udoka said, via the team’s official website. “[Cade] Cunningham is a hell of a player, obviously, and he was going to work a little bit, but we got better as the game went on. Jerami Grant just teeing up shots, pick-up points were too low, not paying attention to detail on certain guys, and so we wanted to increase our physicality first off, and then we junked it up a little bit, went after them, and sometimes that sparks some energy with the rotations, blitzing guys, taking it out of their hands. It came at the right time.”
Smart Wants His Respect
Boston held Cunningham to 10-of-27 shooting on the night, thanks in large part to the efforts of Smart — who, following the game, was asked to build upon a recent tweet where the Celtics veteran insinuated that the guard position has become an afterthought in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
“I don’t see why it’s so hard for a guard to win it,” Smart said, via Mass Live. “We talk about what bigs do — I’m not taking anything away from bigs. But we’ve got to first understand that in order for the guy to get to the big, you’ve got to get by us guards first. Most of the time we’re making it so tough that by the time he gets to him the big, all you’ve got to do is send him the other way.”
A guard hasn’t taken home DPOY honors since Gary Payton in 1995-96 with the now-extinct Seattle SuperSonics.
Smart Goes to Bat for Teammate
Smart doesn’t only have a gripe with his lack of notoriety in the DPOY race, but also the limited chatter surrounding a non-guard putting forth stellar effort on the defensive end, teammate Robert Williams.
“For us to not even be talked about in the discussion — let alone winning it — I think that’s BS,” Smart said after the Celtics beat the Pistons 114-103. “We all know it: It’s a popularity contest. You’ve got me and Rob, and we’re not even in [the] discussion for it on the best defensive team in the league.”
With Smart and Williams leading the charge, the Celtics currently own the NBA’s best defensive rating (105.6) and surrender 104.0 points per game (third-lowest in the NBA).
The latest Celtics news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Celtics newsletter here!