Friday, February 17, 2023

Marcus Smart on his return: 'Feels real good to be back'

After being sidelined for 11 games with an ankle sprain, Marcus Smart made his return Wednesday night in the Celtics 127-109 win over the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year made an immediate impact, recording four of his six total steals in the first two quarters (tying a career-high for steals in the first half). Smart finished the night with nine points (on 4-of-6 shooting), seven rebounds, six assists and only two turnovers in 29 minutes of action.
"Feels real good," Smart said on being back on the floor with this teammates, "Feels like something was missing in my life. So it feels real good to be back out there with my team, my coaching staff, and just the energy that we brought."
Smart also became the first Celtic since Rajon Rondo to have at least six points, six rebounds, six assists and six steals in a game. The veteran point guard was the reason for Boston's energy in front of their home crowd and it showed from the opening tip.
"We missed him a lot," said head coach Joe Mazzulla in his postgame presser on Smart's return. "We missed his joy, he brought a level of joy to the game tonight. He brought a connectivity and a trust on the defensive end to where because of the way he plays, it just brings energy and then everybody plays that way."
During the 11 games Smart missed, the Celtics went 6-5 and were ranked 27th in field goal percentage (46.4%) and 19th in assists per game (24.6) during that stretch. In his return against the Pistons, the C's shot 53.3% from the field and had a total of 30 assists on 49 made baskets Wednesday night. It was the 12th game this season that Boston notched 30 or more assists -- to which they are 11-1.
"Huge, defensively I think it was clear," Malcolm Brogdon said in his postgame comments on Smart's impact. "I think he made some tremendous defensive plays that really got us going. Helped turn the game around when they were getting momentum. We pushed the lead when he was in. You know he's a facilitator and you know he's trying to find the best guy open. He's a guy on the floor that has great chemistry with everybody."
Smart was asked how his left ankle, which he injured back on Jan. 21st, felt going into the matchup against the Pistons.
"I was a little bit comfortable, on the more comfortable side right away," said Smart. "I just wanted to go right into it early and try not to really think about it, try not to baby it, try not to worry too much, and just go out there and play. I think when you've got injuries that you come back from, you can do that, or you just go and play."
With the All-Star break kicking off this weekend, Smart and the league leading 42-17 Celtics will get some much needed rest before playing the final 23 games of the regular season, while trying to seal the No. 1 seed and gear up for what they hope is another deep playoff run to the NBA Finals. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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