Marcus Smart scored only two points, but made an impact on the defensive end, as usual, in 32 minutes off the bench in the Celtics’ 109-101 win against the 76ers in Game 1 of their first round playoff series Monday.
Gordon Hayward started the game and played 34 minutes before suffering an ankle sprain with three minutes left. The good news for Hayward is he did not injure the same ankle that caused him to miss his entire first season with Boston. The bad news is Hayward will be out for the next four weeks in the middle of Boston’s playoff run. But it’s good news for Smart, a former Oklahoma State standout, because he’ll have a larger role.
A few weeks ago I mentioned Hayward would be leaving the bubble ahead of the Eastern Conference Finals to be with his wife, Robyn, who is giving birth to the couples first son. Smart figured to be the one to slide into the lineup during Hayward’s absence, and that opportunity is here now.
Marcus Smart on his role with Gordon Hayward out: "I'll do a lot of the same thing offensively that I usually do. I've still got to be the defensive pest that I am. Still got to be the best defensive player in the league...that I am."— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) August 18, 2020
Smart actually played fewer minutes (30 minutes) in Game 2 than he did in the series opener despite starting the game and scoring 10 points. His 30 minutes was second on the team behind Jayson Tatum’s 31 minutes. Part of the reason Smart didn’t play as much in was because the Celtics routed the Philadelphia 128-101.
Philadelphia is dealing with injury troubles of its own, missing All-Star Ben Simmons for the rest of the season. The 76ers are outmanned in this series and Boston will likely be moving on to the next round as the Celtics are already up 2-0 in the series. Smart will need to be the primary player to fill Hayward’s production against the reigning champion Raptors, who are up 2-0 against the Nets and are the likely opponent for Boston in the next round.
Marcus Smart has had more deflections than the 76ers over the first two games of this series.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) August 20, 2020
Boston’s next game is 5:30 p.m. Friday on TNT, and Game 4 will be at noon Sunday on ABC. Smart has a much larger role now and will be looking to help his team sweep the 76ers in order to get more rest before a potential matchup with the defending champions.
Brad Stevens: “I look at one stat with Marcus: win or loss. And he impacts winning so much.”— Jay King (@ByJayKing) August 20, 2020