Smart Brings 3-Point Sizzle to Downtown LA

LOS ANGELES – Brad Stevens has been saying all season long that Marcus Smart’s 3-point shooting is better than his percentages would indicate.

It’s getting to the point where no one can question that statement.

Smart is absolutely rolling from long range, and he has been for a good two months now. The rookie’s hot 3-point shooting continued Monday afternoon in Los Angeles, where he canned a game-high four 3-pointers against the Clippers.

The title of “game high” during this matchup is significant. Los Angeles boasts elite 3-point shooters such as J.J. Redick (42.1 percent), Matt Barnes (39.9 percent) and Chris Paul (39.1 percent). Jamal Crawford (33.8 percent), who can catch fire from long range at any moment, also plays for the Clippers.

All of these players took the floor Monday afternoon, and all of them made at least one trey. But it was Smart who stood as the game’s most lethal 3-point shooter.

This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has been watching the Celtics since December. He’s been hitting the 3-ball with regularity since returning to the lineup full-time on Dec. 7 following an ankle injury.

Smart has now played in 20 games since that date. He has attempted 68 3-pointers during those games and converted on 29 of them, good for a 42.6 percent clip. That’s the 19th-best 3-point percentage in the entire league among players who have attempted at least 30 3s since that date.

This nine-week stretch of hot shooting likely surprised many its onset. After all, Smart shot just 21.4 percent from long range during his first five weeks as a pro, and he made only 29.9 percent of his 3s last season at Oklahoma State.

The key to his drastic turnaround, according to both he and his coach, is shot selection. Smart is not adept at making difficult 3s, but he is more than capable of making open 3s.

“When he takes good shots, he makes them,” Stevens said following Monday’s game. “I think that he was a better shooter than his percentages coming in. I think he was forced to have the ball so late in the clock. … occasionally he’ll settle for that late 3 instead of driving the ball.”

Smart seconded his coach’s opinion, elaborating on what his role was at Oklahoma State.

“In college I took a lot of bad shots because I was on a team where I had to take a lot of bad shots,” he explained. “Here, I just have to knock down open shots and take the good ones.”

Smart has rarely drawn the ire of his coach by hoisting ill-advised 3s over the past nine weeks. He has instead taken good shots, and he has made them with regularity.

The trend continued Monday afternoon in Los Angeles, when Smart rained more 3s than any player on the court. This performance stands as more evidence that the rookie is a dangerous threat from downtown. No one can question that fact any longer.

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