Here are the points Marcus Smart and the Celtics capitalized on in defeating the Heat 122-92, their latest in a string of strong wins.
1. After months of disappointing basketball, the Celtics have begun rounding up to shape before the February 10 trading deadline – leaving Brad Stevens in the unenviable position of having to pick a direction. Should a team full of good vibes suddenly disintegrate, as players turn the touchline into a stinging pit when Bruno Fernando buries a triple pointer in trash time from a 30-point blast above the eastern heat? Or should he tamper with a slate that needs nine wins in 13 games against a mediocre competition (including the injury-ridden Heat) to lift himself by two games over 0.500?
Guessing here is Stevens playing around a bit – maybe it’s time to move Dennis Schroeder on to give Payton Pritchard a little more sparkle? — but in the end it leaves the list largely intact. However, one thing is clear: Stevens can’t move Marcus Smart.
not now. Not when Smart is playing some of the best basketball of his career. Not after he has finished his duties No points at all in Atlanta. no After his formations He outplayed opponents by 118 points in the last 144 minutes of Smart. Not when it makes the appearance of breaking out the area so easy.
Currently? Trading Smart may concede defeat in a season that suddenly looks more promising 10-6 months into January, especially as Tatum begins its annual ramp up seemingly for the second half of the schedule. Stevens faces some tough decisions, but it’s hard to imagine Smart going anywhere.
2. The Celtics played only eight players in rotation for most of the match until the end, when Emi Odoka emptied the bench. Odoka said he liked the way Josh Richardson and Grant Williams were playing with Unit Two, and didn’t want to tamper with their success. Romeo Langford, Peyton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith played under 10 minutes each.
3. Jason Tatum has eliminated opponents recently – an important part of the Celtics’ success – but only scored 20 points on 7 to 15 shots. Jaylen Brown made the scoring look easy against many of Miami’s superior defenders, but he also finished with a relatively good pedestrian game—29 points in an 11-for-19 shot.
The Celtics spread the fortune: six players scored in double digits, and 24 of the 44 field goals were made.
“I love every last bit of it,” Smart said. “Especially with the adversities we’ve been dealing with all this season, the ups and downs, the inconsistency. So for us, to finally start making this go in the right direction, it’s huge for us confidence wise, team wise, individual wisdom.
“It’s something we needed and it’s happening at the right time for us and we just have to keep going.”
4. Bear Odoka, the Heat plays more area defense than all but three teams in the NBA (and watching the Heat, the third feels weak). The Celtics have had problems against zone defenses, which is a bit confusing: they have a lot of players who could theoretically make the opponent pay for the playing zone.
Those guys came on Monday – most notably Tatum and Brown, but also Smart.
“We love Marcus there as well as Jaylen and Jason, but we want him to be a decision maker in the middle, flash in there and find players from a high and low or weak team,” Odoka said. “He had some open shots and made enough to get them out of the area, but we really want to rely on our defense to get stops and get out and run and not have to play against a specific defense or an area every time.”
5. Max Strauss may not have had the same chances in Boston, but at this point we can say with great certainty that the Celtics shouldn’t have let him go. The Celtics cut off the shooting wing after urging him for a two-way deal ahead of the 2019-20 season, opting instead to bring in Javonte Green (who was moderately productive before being tackled with the Bulls) and Tacko Fall (who sold a lot of jerseys).
Strus finished with 27 points in a 9 to 19 shot. All of his field goals were three-pointers. The Celtics are 23rd in 3 points and 11 in attempts.
6. Marcus Smart was thrilled to see his former teammate Brandon Bass in the game as the Celtics honored two players from 2010. Bass played for the Celtics from 2012-2015.
“To be honest, I thought I’d never see Brandon again once he left,” Smart said. “So it was really nice to see him and I think I said that [NBC Sports Boston’s] My Father [Chin]Little has changed. He told me he was still ready, waiting for 10 days.
“But no, it was really nice to see him, he was a good vet when I was there and really helped me get through my new year.”
How did Bass help?
“Just talk to me,” Smart said. “After watching movies with me and showing things he sees on the floor and things I can work on and how to maneuver through this league and what to do early and what not to do early. So it was my vet, I had a hard time here and there, but Everything was fine.”
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