Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics’ lineup against the Milwaukee Bucks following a two-game absence to do what Marcus Smart does — frustrate everyone around him with a blend of stout defense and ill-advised shot selection before somehow finding a way to impact the game’s outcome.
To some, like a Bucks rookie, Smart’s game may seem like “trash.” And to others, like Celtics teammate Al Horford, “He just sees the game in ways that a lot of times we don’t even see it.” We’ll get to both.
First, that “trash” business. Smart missed his first six shots against the Bucks on Thursday night and entered the fourth quarter scoreless. He finally connected on a 28-foot 3-pointer 2:38 into the fourth quarter that pushed Boston’s lead to 79-72 and forced a Milwaukee timeout. He had some words for the Bucks bench on the way to the huddle. Two minutes later, he buried another 3, turning to bark at a Bucks fan before flashing two fingers at the Bucks bench and exchanging some more pleasantries:
Asked about what led to that interaction, Smart told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin soon afterwards:
“One of the rookies kept saying I was trash, and I just told him, ‘I’m playing on a hurt ankle, and you still ain’t got no playing time, so just relax and I’ll be trash for the day.'”
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He elaborated on the back-and-forth with reporters in the locker room, via MassLive.com’s Jay King:
“I don’t even know his name. At the end of the Bucks bench, one of the rookies was saying, ‘You’re trash.’ I just told him, ‘Listen, this is my first game back. I’m playing on two hurt ankles, still got more playing time than you.’ And I hit my first 3 and he was like, ‘That’s good, that’s one.’ Then I hit the second one so I pointed at him and told him, ‘That’s two. Two more than you got.’ But like I said, it was fun. And one day that’ll be him doing it.”
The Bucks have two rookies on their roster — first-round pick D.J. Wilson and second-round selection Sterling Brown. Neither played a minute of Thursday’s 96-89 loss to the Celtics. They’ve each played one garbage minute in their NBA careers, combining for one field goal on three attempts. They both could be seen gleefully celebrating Smart’s errant 3-point attempt at the end of the first half:
As for his fan interaction, Smart added, “Somebody said, ‘You can’t shoot’ and ‘that’s broke.’ So I shot it and I laughed at him. He kind of put his head down. And I just told him, ‘It’s all right. Keep your head up.’ And I just kept moving.” The second 3 pushed Boston’s lead to 10 and all but sealed the win.
Smart’s turnaround from the first three quarters to the fourth was remarkable, even by Smart standards. His line through three quarters: zero points (0-for-5 from the floor), two assists against two turnovers, one steal and one personal foul. He was a plus-one in 16 minutes, thanks to a couple picks that freed Horford for back-to-back 3’s late in the third quarter to swing a 63-59 deficit to a 65-63 lead:
Those six points were reflected in the box score by just one assist from Smart on the first Horford 3.
“I really have to give all the credit to Marcus Smart on that,” Horford told reporters after the victory, via NBC Sports Boston’s A. Sherrod Blakely. “He just sees the game in ways that a lot of times we don’t even see it. He recognized that my guy was kind of falling asleep on the weak side. He got me open there for back-to-back threes and I felt like that was a big turning point in the game.”
Smart then totaled eight points (2-for-4 from 3), two assists (no turnovers) and rebound for a plus-eight rating in 11 fourth-quarter minutes. The Celtics won by seven, and Smart took out the trash.
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