Smart, Thomas Combine to Save OT Win
TORONTO – Marcus Smart was in the right place, at the right time.
The right place was under the Celtics’ basket in Toronto. The right time was with less than a second to go.
In overtime. With the game - and once again, playoff positioning - on the line.
Smart, who hit a huge corner 3 moments before, was ready for a pass or a rebound when Isaiah Thomas streaked to the basket. Thomas got the call on the ATO inbounds play with 2.6 seconds to play, starting in the backcourt before racing toward the hoop with jets on.
Somehow the ball ended up in Smart’s hands, and it was on the glass and through the hoop an instant later. The Celtics ran off the court with a 117-116 overtime victory over the Raptors, and flew back across the border with a half-game lead over the Miami Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The play was designed for Thomas to catch the Raptors off guard and walk in for the layup, and it almost worked completely to specifications. But it worked nonetheless.
“Full head of steam. 2.6 seconds left. I’ve never seen him do that before,” Stevens said of Thomas, who dropped 25 points for Boston. “That was a play that we put in for other guys that aren’t here anymore. We’ve never run it since this new group’s been together and so they just went right off the board and did it.
“And it worked out.”
Thomas’ drive definitely caught the Raptors off guard, and when he was finally met by a defender, he tried to dump the ball off to Smart.
“Coach drew up a great play,” Thomas said. “He wanted me to catch the ball and run and try to make a play and attack the hoop. I saw the opening, I thought I got fouled, and at the last second, I saw Marcus right there.
“I thought I got fouled so I couldn’t get my arms up. I had to shovel it to him,” Thomas said.
Or maybe he tried to shoot. It depends on who you ask. In real time, and even after watching the replay multiple times, it was hard to tell whether it was a pass or a shot.
So Thomas called it a pass.
“When he drove, he committed two defenders in the area, including mine, so when he drove, I knew if he could just get the ball up in the area and I could get the offensive rebound,” Smart said. “It was like a pass; Lou Williams swiped it toward my area and I was able to get the shot off in time.”
Wait, so what was it, Marcus?
“It was a missed shot, but I said ‘good pass’ to him,” Smart said.
Whatever it was, it led to a much needed win, marking the Celtics 10th victory in their last 11 games that have come on the second night of a back-to-back.
“It’s pretty good. But we’ve got to play better all the time," said Stevens. "But our guys are really into those games. Sometimes when you’re on the road, you know it’s you 15 out there, and you’ve got to get it done together.”
For this team, the playoff hunt seems to be bonding the group together.
“We need these games,” Smart said. “When you’ve got a goal you’re trying to reach like that, it kind of forces you to band together. That’s what we’ve been doing in this locker room.”