Following Tuesday’s opener, Miami’s All-Star suggested that Joe Mazzulla and company should be using the veteran guard in more ways within their scheme “because he plays his role to the T.”
Butler’s complementary comments ultimately made their way to Marcus Smart himself who, though certainly appreciates the Heat wing’s kind words, doesn’t necessarily see an issue with the way he’s currently being utilized by the Celtics.
“Much respect to Jimmy for sure,” Marcus Smart, as per Jay King of The Athletic. “He’s been doing this for a very long time and we all know what he’s capable of. And he’s one of the best players in this league for a reason. Me and Jimmy have had our battles over the years, but that’s respect right there. That’s a good compliment to have. But about the using me more part, I’m just here. Whatever my team needs me to do, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m about winning. And that’s the main goal. The bottom line for us is winning no matter what. And I can do that scoring zero points. I can do that scoring 15 points. I can do that being on the bench if I have to. Really whatever this team needs. And I just try to do my best at that.”
As has been the case throughout the vast majority of his tenure with the organization, Marcus Smart has played an integral role for the Celtics during their current postseason run.
Through 14 games played, he finds himself posting impressive two-way averages of 15.6 points, 5.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.2 steals while shooting 46.3% from the floor and 36.9% from deep.
In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, he would go on to register 13 points, 11 assists, 2 steals, and a block on 42.9% shooting from the field and 50.0% shooting from deep.
Jimmy Butler Describes Steps to Guarding Jayson Tatum
The Miami Heat managed to scrape out a win in Game 1 of their best-of-seven conference finals matchup against the Boston Celtics, and playing a pivotal role in their opening night victory was their two-way efforts late in the contest, particularly when it came to containing superstar forward Jayson Tatum on the defensive end.
After dropping 18 points on 53.8% shooting from the field in the first half of action, the 25-year-old was held to just four shot attempts during the final two periods combined.
Asked post-game what the “strategy collectively” was when matching up against Tatum defensively, Jimmy Butler noted three points of emphasis his team honed in on.
“Stay down, don’t foul, [and] make everything difficult for him,” Jimmy Butler said on defending Jayson Tatum. “You got to guard him with all five bodies out there on the floor. I think we did an excellent job of that.”
Tatum would finish the night off with 30 total points, but, during the pivotal fourth period, he took zero shot attempts and was held to just six points, all of which came from the free-throw line.
On top of this, the All-Star coughed up three grueling turnovers during the quarter which led to seven total points.
Joe Mazzulla Addresses Grant Williams’ Role With Celtics
Grant Williams has seen his role regress from a rotational staple during a large portion of the regular season to a highly underutilized talent during this year’s playoff run.
Even during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, despite their apparent need for an added boost in the floor spacing department within their frontcourt, the Celtics opted to keep the big man on the sidelines and questionably inserted Payton Pritchard into the rotation instead.
Asked to explain his reasoning behind avoiding Grant Williams on the night, Joe Mazzulla stated that the Celtics “used the depth that we need in order to give us the lineups we think could really help us.”
“Obviously in the playoffs when minutes are expanding you look to play seven or eight guys which we’ve kind of done throughout. I think, in the start, I think Payton gave us an opportunity with his shooting, with his playmaking, and his pick-and-roll defense. Like we said before, Grant is always going to be ready and we’ve built a lot of versatility and depth in our lineup to where we can go a lot of different ways. We trust that anybody we call will be ready,” Joe Mazzulla said.
Grant Williams has a proven track record of success when squaring off against the Heat, as the Celtics big averaged 8.7 points and 4.1 rebounds on 38.9% shooting from deep during last year’s conference finals and posted 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on 58.3% shooting from the floor and 58.8% shooting from deep in four-games played during the 2022-23 regular season.