In his first season as the Boston Celtics starting point guard, Marcus Smart has helped his team reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, while also earning himself the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Coming into this season, there was a lot of talk about the Celtics needing a ‘true point guard’ – but rookie head coach Ime Udoka entrusted that role to Smart, and has reaped the benefits as a result. Since taking the reins as the team’s floor general, the Texas native has limited his questionable shot selection and vastly improved his passing ability.
However, according to Stephen A Smith, Smart isn’t a true floor general, and the Celtics are getting exposed for their lack of a true point guard on the biggest stage of them all: the NBA Finals.
“The Boston Celtics don’t have a point guard, and that’s a big problem. They don’t have a floor general to settle them down, they don’t have a floor general to make them get into their sets, they don’t have a floor general that understands the responsibility that each and every individual on the floor has, and to maximize their potential. They don’t have that dude.
They have athletes, they have scorers, they athleticism, they have ferocity, they have tenacity, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, they have those things. But, they don’t have that floor general that says ‘alright calm down, this is what you’re supposed to do,’ they don’t have that guy…Marcus Smart is a hell of a player…But he’s not a floor general, and look at how many times they turn over the damn ball, making one mistake after another,” Smith said on a June 14 episode of Espn’s First Take.
Throughout the regular season, Smart was ranked in the 78th percentile for his assist percentage, which is how many of the team’s assists came through him while he was on the floor – the answer is 24.4%. While the 28-year-old might not be known as a true point guard, or a pass-first playmaker, his presence within the offense has clearly been having a positive effect on his team.
Smart Brings a Warrior’s Mentality
Outside of Smart’s improvements as a point guard, his presence within Boston’s rotation injects toughness into a young and developing rotation. The six-foot-three combo guard is known to lead by example, and consistently sets the tone for his team’s terms of engagement on the defensive end of the floor.
It’s that two-way versatility, coupled with his improving playmaking game, that has seen Udoka entrust the keys of the offense to him, and given the Celtics’ success throughout the basketball year, it’s unlikely we see that change any time soon.
Furthermore, Smart’s willingness to play through the pain barrier, and put himself in harm’s way for the good of the team is the perfect embodiment of how Udoka wants his team to play, and this mentality was evident during Smart’s June 12 pre-game press conference heading into game five of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
“Mentality is you’ve got to keep going. Can’t ever give up. You can’t take breaks. You’ve got to push yourself to the limit. You’re playing against some of the greatest players, and you have to have a high motor. You have to keep it going. For me, I’m just telling myself constantly, no matter how hurt you are, no matter how tired you are, you’ve got to keep going. That’s the mentality you have to have to be a really good defender, let alone a great one,” Smart said.
Celtics One Game Away From Elimination
Following the Celtics’ 104-94 loss to the Warriors on June 13, Boston is now one game away from elimination, which would see them fall short at the final hurdle after a mesmerizing run to the NBA Finals.
Unfortunately, Jayson Tatum has reached his usual lofty heights, and Jaylen Brown’s regression to the mean has come at the worst possible time. However, the Celtics have been here before, specifically against the Milwaukee Bucks, and the team managed to turn the tide by winning back-to-back games to progress to the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Obviously, we are all frustrated with tonight a little bit, but even prior, quarters and games. Our message is to take it one at a time. We’ve been here before, did it against Milwaukee. Let’s bring it back out to the Bay,” Udoka said.
The Celtics now head into game six on June 16 facing a win-or-go-home scenario in front of their homecourt fans, so we should be in for a spectacle of a basketball game, and given how this series has gone thus far, it’s likely that we’ll get to see a game seven.