Forgetting his mistakes, Marcus Smart creates the big plays to end an unforgettable Celtics

By the time the Celtics, 116-112, unexpectedly ousted one-time NBA Finals favorite from the playoffs, it was a smart race to try to catch Kevin Durant in a blind spot for a steal, then allow Irving to enter a long-forgotten triple pointer long time.

That drew laughter from coach Im Odoka, who has dealt with his share of smart moments this season. But he is the best defensive player of the year, because of his courage, willingness to take those opportunities and lack of short-term memory that allows him to strive to make those great defensive plays.

The most significant play is the one for which Smart refused to take full credit. With less than 25 seconds left in the game and the Celtics ahead 3 times, Durant rebounded Jalen Brown’s foul with no intention of giving up the ball, searching for a soft spot in the Celtics defense to trigger a potential 3 pointer.

Before Durant could reach halfway through the backcourt, Smart lunged toward the dribble and the two men fell to the ground, Smart hoping to draw the jump ball. It was called a mistake, but it was probably the most beautiful mistake of Smart’s career.

Not only was Durant denied a 3 chance of a tie, he went down to make two free throws with 22.1 left, meaning the net would have to play the offending game. Durant missed the second free throw, then Smart raced to the ground to miss a potential winning opportunity, but Al Horford raced behind to fall back.

This sequence seals the game. Smart sank three more free throws in Final 7.1 to polish the Celtics’ most impressive basketball since the Big Three disbanded 10 years ago. The Celtics won all four games on a total of 18 points, but were victorious in the last moments of each game, capturing a key defensive stop, a correct pass and preventing Durant and Irving from having a chance to win any of the games. Final shots.

Marcus Smart’s all-out play ignited the Celtics, including Grant Williams.John Minchillo/The Associated Press

Durant finally overcame the Celtics’ relentless defense, scoring 39 on a 13-for-31 shootout and was determined to keep Brooklyn from drifting, even if it meant facing five defenders. Smart denied him this opportunity, even if it wasn’t a pre-designed mistake.

He could easily have accepted all the glory and honors for this premeditated, unintentional foul, but in Marcus Smart’s pure style, he was furious that he had been whistled. He was trying to go for a clean robbery.

“If we’re being honest, it wasn’t wrong,” he said. “I picked up the ball, dipped on the ball and we both went to the floor. It’s a loose ball. Where’s the mistake? But they shot it and it worked in our favour.

“He shoots two instead of three and I’ll take that any day, especially with him. The way he was shooting [Monday]I felt like everything he released was going through it. It was worth it, I’ll take it.”

Odoka smiled when asked about the discrepancy between Smart’s attempt to steal Durant and this bug with 22.1 remaining. He fully understands the adventure of smart training. He has embraced her.

“Marcus will be Marcus and you live these moments because most of the time he will be playing right,” Odoka said. Takes me back to my years with Manu [Ginobili] And I see what [coach Gregg Popovich] He was passing, and I would say Manu is Manu because he was gambling sometimes and more often than not he was doing the right play. That’s what you have to do with instinctive guys like that, not get rid of their aggressiveness.”

Smart scored 10 of 26 points for the Celtics in the recent period, once again proving himself the most important player on Boston’s roster, a two-way player who can cause defensive havoc – even if he sometimes makes a questionable decision – and close matches with him. winning plays.

In addition to his strong defense, Marcus Smart scored 21 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.John Minchillo/The Associated Press

The Celtics needed a lift with Tatum off the bench, and some odd last-minute calls made the impression that Boston was headed for Wednesday’s game five at TD Garden. But Smart saved his team with Tatum standing helplessly near the Celtics’ bench.

It was good for us to play without Jason [for that stretch]Smart said. “You never know. It might happen again. We have to be prepared and understanding what to do without it is very important to us.”

Smart’s lack of short-term memory and his screaming at the floor are one of the main reasons why the Celtics have swept the streak 37-10 in their past 47 games. And those critical plays, defensive stops, key rebounds, 50-50 balls or even a deliberate inadvertent foul are the reason behind the Celtics’ lead and that foul that led to Irving’s triple indicator becoming more than Marcus.

“You can’t be [fazed at mistakes]Especially at this time of year, you can’t be either. One slip, one ‘Uh’ [after an error]Then bam, he’ll make us pay. You took the chance, but it failed, move on to the next play, and don’t let that happen again, that’s the mindset you have to have. You have to have short amnesia, in this game, in this sport, in this profession, at this level, especially at this time of year.”


Gary Washburn is a columnist for The Globe. He can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.

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