Smart's Sparky Playmaking Boosts C's Over Bucks

BOSTON – Marcus Smart stood on the baseline with 2.1 seconds remaining in the first half of Friday night’s contest against Milwaukee. His Celtics held a 63-58 advantage over the Bucks at that moment, and they wanted to head into the break with a little extra padding on their lead.

Two seconds is not enough time to perform a typical inbound pass and race upcourt for a buzzer-beating shot, so Smart had something else up his sleeve.

The 22-year-old guard took the handoff from the referee and didn’t even bat an eye; he promptly cocked his right arm back and launched an 85-foot Hail Mary right into the mitts of Jared Sullinger – a toss that surely would have made Tom Brady nod his head in approval.

As soon as Smart’s wide receiver caught the rock, he quickly turned and laid the ball in left-handed with half a second remaining on the clock. It gave the C’s the seven-point, touchdown lead they were searching for, and more importantly gave them an extra boost of momentum en route to their dominating 124-109 win.

Smart’s perfect pass to Sully was just a small sample of the facilitating show he brought to TD Garden Friday night, as he was launching the rock all over the court.

No, he was not launching it into the hoop – that was not even part of his game plan on this night. He attempted just two field goals all game and missed them both; yet, his impact was perhaps greater than any other player on the court because of his sensational playmaking on both ends of the floor.

When the C’s were up by just one point midway through the second quarter, Smart kick-started the team with a barrage of highlight reel passes. He dished out two consecutive alley-oop dimes – one to Tyler Zeller, and one to Kelly Olynyk – then found Zeller again with a halfcourt outlet dish.

The sparky guard continued that trend throughout the game as he finished with a team-high-tying nine assists off the bench, to go along with two steals and a block on the defensive end.

Smart was not available for comment after the game, though his teammates represented him by raining him with praise in Boston’s locker room.

“He did what he does,” said Isaiah Thomas, who scored 20 points in 25 minutes. “He made plays on the defensive end, he made the right plays offensively and he just brought a lot of energy.”

Perhaps he was boosted by the fact that his mother Camellia was in the stands for a rare appearance at the Garden.

“I think that was his mom’s first time coming to the game,” Thomas said with a grin. “We said we’re going pitch in and try to make his mom come to every home game.”

But in reality, whether Smart’s mother is present or not, he has delivered like this time and time again this season. His shot may not be consistent all the time, but he can always be relied upon to deliver by doing the little things that lead to victories.

“Marcus always plays hard,” said Zeller, who tied career highs with 26 points and four blocked shots. “He rebounds, he defends, sometimes he makes shots, but tonight wasn’t his night [in that aspect]. He passed the ball and made all the other plays that may or may not show up in the stat sheet, and really helped us get that lead.”

Many have been quick to point out Smart’s lack of scoring over the last few weeks (he’s averaging 6.8 points during his last 12 contests), but his impact in other areas has been simply irreplaceable, as Jonas Jerebko explained after the Friday’s game.

“Marcus Smart is one of the best defenders I’ve ever played with,” said Jerebko, who, at 29 years old, is the eldest member of the team. “If he puts his mind to it he is a bulldog in there, so his shot’s going to fall. We’ve all seen him get hot and we’ve all seen him get cold. He works on his shot, he works on his game, so we trust him shooting the ball. But like I said, he’s one of the best defenders out there, so we love having him on the team.”

That statement right there says it all. Smart may be experiencing some shooting woes, but his teammates fully trust him and know his shot will come around. In the meantime, he continues to influence Boston’s success tremendously with his playmaking ability and trademark tenacity on both ends of the court.

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