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BOSTON – Al Horford spent part of this past summer working out with Celtics teammate Marcus Smart. Through the process, he witnessed the young guard work tirelessly on his shooting with the hope of advancing his offensive game as he entered his fourth NBA campaign.
When Smart got off to a rough shooting start this season, Horford wanted to do nothing but offer encouragement. So, he sat down with Smart Friday night like any veteran leader would, and dished out some wise advice.
“All I said was for him to make sure he stays the course and keeps doing what he does every day,” said Horford. “Just to keep working on his shooting and all of that work is going to pay off.”
As simple as that advice was, it may have been just the trick to get Smart’s confidence flowing. The following night in Indiana, he shot 7-of-8 from the field while helping to lead Boston to a 108-98 win.
Horford's words continued to hold weight Monday night when Smart shot the lights out from deep against the Detroit Pistons, as he connected on six 3-pointers, while scoring a season-high 23 points. His offensive outpour wasn’t enough to lift the Celtics over Detroit, but it was a promising feat nonetheless.
“I’ve just been working and talking to my teammates and the coaching staff,�� Smart said following Boston's 118-108 loss. “I just can’t get too high on the highs and too low on the lows. I gotta continue to keep working and things will hopefully keep falling for me.”
During Smart’s first 18 games of the season, he shot just 26.5 percent from the field and 24.4 percent from 3-point range. Over the last two games, however, he has shot 71.4 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from deep, while scoring a total of 38 points.
Coach Brad Stevens knows that Smart is capable of shooting the ball at an efficient rate, so he hopes that the ambitious guard keeps firing away.
“I expect him to just keep making the right basketball plays and the shot will go down,” said Stevens, who has noticed a confidence spike from Smart over the last two games. “He puts in a lot of time, we believe in him, and we want him to shoot and take and make those open ones.”
Smart wasn’t just taking shots Monday night; he was also setting them up. He dished out six assists, making him the first reserve in Celtics history to tally at least six 3-pointers and six assists in the same game, per basketball-reference.com.
Boston’s second unit has struggled offensively as a whole this season, so this is exactly the type of production they need on that end.
“It’s huge for us because you’ve got a lot of great second units in this league,” said Smart. “We’re young in that second unit, and for us to come in and be able to score the ball is very productive for us because we’re going to need that down the stretch.”
Monday’s strong bench effort, which also featured a career-high 12 points from rookie Daniel Theis, wasn’t enough to push Boston past Detroit. But it’s a good sign moving forward, especially if Smart – the glue of the second unit – can continue to have a hot hand.
“It was great to see Marcus have that rhythm again,” said Horford. “He’s stuck with it. He’s been working all offseason on his shot. He’s been through some struggles, but he’s stayed with it. Against Indiana I felt like he broke through, and tonight (against Detroit) he had another great game.”