MIAMI – NBA Defensive Player of the Year 2021-2022 angry since Tuesday.
Busted out with a sprained right leg in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Marcus Smart was about to make his way into the roster for Game 2, whether he was ready or not.
“I couldn’t miss tonight,” Smart told Sportzshala Sports after Game 2. “Couldn’t do it. I know we weren’t in the first game. I had to get out of there.”
Celtics players privately described Game 1 as “win-knocked out,” the sources said, referring to that third-quarter crash when Boston beat the Heat in every frame except the third. Smart mentioned the lack of toughness and attention during the timeout in the crucial third quarter.
“It was devastating,” Smart told Sportzshala Sports of a 39-14 lead in the third quarter when the Celtics dropped eight turnovers. “I really got into the guys. I really got into them. They felt it, and I felt sorry for them, because it’s one thing to be there with your guys, and it’s another thing not to play and hear me step on them like I used to. So for me, when I got back to Game 2, I wanted to go back and show the guys what I meant with my words and my actions. I show them that I have your backs.
When asked specifically about what was bothering him that quarter, he cited the inattention of the team’s best players.
“It was just the way we flipped the ball. Jason [Tatum] there were two turns when jimmy [Butler] just looked at him and he threw the ball right at him,” Smart told Sportzshala Sports. “And it doesn’t look like him. He knows it and we should have gotten better. I know how great Jason is and I know how great this team is, but that kind of loss in this series just can’t be.”
Smart is able to call on his teammates because of the fairness he has created by doing his best to give his team the best possible opportunity to succeed.
That’s why his presence was a big part of the Heat’s fans pulling out with 10 minutes left in Game 2 on Thursday night as Miami faced a whopping 30-point deficit.
The Celtics bounced back with a furious struggle, handling the Heat en route to a 127–102 scoreline to tie the series at one game apiece.
Smart had 24 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds and 3 steals. He is the only Celtic to have at least 20 points, 10 assists and three steals in the playoffs since Rajon Rondo in 2012.
“I haven’t seen those stats, but I’ll take them,” Smart told Sportzshala Sports. “This is an amazing, amazing achievement. I’m just trying to do everything in my power to help my team win. These games are important.”
Al Horford also returned for Game 2 after spending nearly 48 hours on health and safety protocols. He added 10 points and three rebounds in 32 minutes.
Butler got his way in those playoffs, and the star is now considered by many to be the best player left in the postseason. He scored 41 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the field in the first meeting with Smart in street clothes.
Butler still scored a game-high 29 points on 11 of 18 shots on Thursday, but according to Second Spectrum, Smart defended Butler in 31 plays and held him to nine points.
The best defender of this season explained how he works first in defense and then in attack.
“I watch a movie with the team and then I start watching movies of individual matches where I could start,” Smart told Sportzshala Sports. “I watch a movie alone for at least an hour and a half. I just try to look at their trends. I try to look at what they do best. I try to look at what they don’t do, what they would like to do and what they don’t really do that much. It’s like a striker looking at defense and how he’s going to play defense. I’m doing the same thing. You want to know how they will play you on offense and how you should play them. But Jimmy is a good player. I’m done with work.”
The series is now moving to Boston for games 3 and 4 on Saturdays and Mondays.
“This streak is far from over, but we’re up for the challenge,” Smart told Sportzshala Sports.