With Avery Bradley sitting out due to a strained Achilles, which he suffered during Friday’s night game against the 76er’s, Marcus Smart was thrust into the starting rotation against the New Orleans Pelicans, and boy did he not disappoint.
In the midst of a back to back this had the potential to be a trap game for the C’s as they tend to play down to lesser opponents, evident by the nail-biter on against Philadelphia that required an Al Horford three in the closing seconds to seal a victory. The Pelican’s squeaked out a win against the C’s in their first matchup in November, however, strong three-point shooting and a breakout performance from Marcus Smart prevented the Celtics from suffering a similar fate.
The C’s shot an absurd 50% from three, converting 18 of their 36 attempts, with Smart and I.T hitting a combined 11. This Celtics team must have made a “New Year, New Me” resolution in regards to their three-point shooting, as they have gone 54-107 (50%) in the first three games of 2017.
Marcus Smart had an incredibly efficient night from the field, which is not something we often say about the former #6 overall pick. Smart went 7-10 from the floor and 5-7 from three, good for 22 points. He was also aggressive on the boards with 5 rebounds and dished out 6 assists. As usual, I.T was the team’s main source of offensive production, dropping 38 while shooting over 50% from both the field and from three.
When on the floor together, Smart and Thomas shared ball handling duties, which added another fold to the Celtics offense. It allowed the shifty I.T to dart around the floor finding space for open looks. We all know when the ball is in I.T’s hands he can usually get to the rim at will, but when defensive’s tighten up in the postseason, this may be Brad Stevens answer to the offensive droughts that plagued the Celtics postseason last year.
Smart was the team’s primary distributor, leading the Green with 6 assists, and it seems the more the ball is in Marcus’ hands the less likely it is for him to jack up poorly thought out threes. When Smart isn’t handling the ball he tends to hang back at the three-point line, waiting for the first opportunity to pull the trigger. Last night with increased ball handling duties he seemed less trigger happy. Even though he did take 7 threes, most came on clean looks, and on the one highly contested three he did take, he ended up hitting it while also drawing a foul.
Overall, it was a nice performance for the Celtics as these are the types of games they need to win if they hope to overtake the Toronto Raptors for the #2 seed in the East. Marcus Smart shined and continued to tease us with the kind of player he could become, and Isaiah Thomas continued to thrust himself in the minds of All-Star voters with another efficient performance.