In the four games since his comeback, Smart has been a plus-36, plus-36, -7 and plus-30, and it’s no surprise that the Celtics have won those three games where Smart was easily an added advantage.
He embraced two key components to the Celtics’ success: distributing the ball rather than shooting, and pushing speed so the Celtics could score easier.
Celtics head coach Im Yodoka pleaded with Smart to push the ball higher, even on made baskets, so that top scorers Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum would have a chance to score against the unassigned flowing defenses.
For years, SMART had no real website. During his career, he’s been a combo guard, point guard, shooting guard, and even a big little ball (remember he’s guarded the 7-foot-3-inch Kristaps Porzingis?). .
When Udoka took the job in June, Smart appointed the starting point guard, tasking him with taking on the duties of Kimba Walker.
Smart has made a more concerted effort this season at being a ground pilot rather than a random 3-head launcher. While there were matches where he was drifting too far to try to be a top scorer, Smart focused on getting the ball to Tatum and Brown.
“Pace, our pace,” Smart said. “We can go down and get more and easier shots for these guys. When they’re in transition, it’s hard to guard them. It’s hard for teams to load up. It’s hard for teams to catch. It’s hard for teams to double down, to send more players to them when we go out. in a transitional period.
“Maybe one of our focus points is speed. I just try to keep that pace. My job is just to get as easy shots as possible. I constantly challenge them to run with me, whenever I catch the ball.”
What makes the Celtics attack even better is that Tatum and Brown get easy baskets early on and at a fast pace. Smart said he was encouraging both All-Stars to race on the floor, even on opponent-made baskets.
“They do a good job, if I take off, of getting the ball to me because they know I’ll get the ball back to them,” Smart said. “If we can get those easier shots, especially early in the game, those hard hits get a lot easier in the fourth quarter after that. You see that when they get those easier shots and they get that rhythm. [and] are taking advantage of. “
Udoka said earlier this week that he challenged Smart to efficiently manage a foul that has been erratic at times this season. Smart’s biggest focus is to push the ball, not allowing the defenses to get caught by passing the ball to the ground.
“Ime is really big,” Smart said. “He wants us to play fast. He wants us to come down to the ground, because he knows the potential we have, especially with these two guys we have on this wing and the talent they have on the open court. Getting these guys out on the open court to allow them to be great will only help us.” “.
Smart signed a contract extension until 2025-26 in an off-season. However, he has been mentioned frequently, along with Dennis Schroeder, in business talks. However, such talk would likely have been muted if the Celtics had been off to a better start than 26-25, leaving them 31 games to round up a niche.
With the Miami Heat arriving at TD Garden on Monday, the Celtics, who are now as healthy and full as they have been all season, face a sense of urgency to reach their full potential before the trade deadline.
“We’ve been selling below par all season,” Smart said. “We know that. We’re still outside trying to fight. It’s not easy for us individually and collectively. We definitely have to start going the right way. We can’t win the game, or lose; win two, lose two. We have to start showing consistency. Not It’s easy, especially with a new concept this year, a new coach, just trying to get used to everyone.
“This is not an excuse. We don’t want to make excuses. We want to own up and take responsibility. We just have to keep going.” [We] I can’t quit and that’s what matters. I’ve said it before: What do we do when we fall? As long as we keep pushing, I think things will pass by themselves and we’ll run here.”
This is a critical time for the Celtics. Fortunately for them, no team in the Eastern Conference had escaped with her. All teams are assembled, so the Celtics have a chance on the field in the first round. Or they could end the tournament entirely. Smart said he is determined to push the Celtics back into the competition this season.
“What a better way to go out there and show everyone who invites you to failure or expects you to fail,” he said. “Don’t think that you will succeed by doing exactly what they want you to do.
“Personally I try to look at it as a motive and I try to encourage my team to look at it that way. Ban it and go out there and prove them wrong.”
Gary Washburn is a columnist for The Globe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.