Saturday, May 13, 2023

Why Marcus Smart was necessary glue-guy in Celtics Game 6 victory

Marcus Smart stepped up to the lead the Celtics to a 95-86 victory in Game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers and extend their season.

The veteran point guard put together one of his best playoff performances to stave off elimination by recording 22 points (team-high) on 8-of-15 shooting, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals in 42 minutes of action to force a do-or-die Game 7 at home.
"He got the pace going for us from start to finish," said Joe Mazzulla in his postgame presser. "He did a great job of keeping us poised, and he was the quarterback of our defense -- him and Rob. When Smart can dictate the pace like that and get us into offense and get us into spacing and just play with that level toughness, it was contagious. He's one of our emotional leaders"
Smart, who along with Robert Williams (10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks) each finished with a plus-18 (game-high), set the the tone early -- connecting on 2-of-3 from 3-point range as part of 13-3 run to start the first quarter, before leading the way with 15 points at the break.
"Throughout the game, Marcus Smart was steady for us," Al Horford said to reporters. "He kept us steady. He stayed the course."
The longest tenured Celtic's overall stats don't do him justice for the impact he made in Thursday's Game 6 win. However, Smart -- the reigning NBA Hustle Award winner, has proven why he has taken home the honors two years straight and three times over the last six seasons by doing the little things.
"My teammates look to me for that; my coaching staff looks to me for that," said Smart following Thursday's win. "That's one of the greatest things about me is to be able to come in and change the game with just the way I play both offensively and defensively. And we've got a guy like me that can do that, that helps other guys."
While Jayson Tatum put the Sixers away in the final four minutes of Game 6, it was Smart's willingness to "leave it all out on the floor" attitude that sparked his teammates to bounce back from a terrible outing in a pivotal Game 5 loss at home.
 "We don't want to get off this court saying, 'I should have done more. I could have done more,' and then we're pissed at ourselves," said Smart. "We got to go out there, and it's got to be a dogfight. You got to be ready to scrap. You got to be ready to bleed. You got to be willing to take a shot to the face, to do whatever it takes to win."
Tatum broke through a horrid slump to score 16 points in the final frame, while Horford and the Cs defense prevented Joel Embiid from touching the ball down the stretch and the Sixers were limited to just 13 points on 5-of-20 shooting (0-of-8 from deep) in the fourth quarter -- a testament to Smart and how he's grown as leader on and off the floor.

With a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals (fifth in seven years) on the line and the Miami Heat waiting, the Celtics are going to need that leadership from Smart once again come Sunday at TD Garden.
 "We're the more experienced team," said Smart. "It's not going to be easy, though. But we are the more experienced team in these situations, and we got to go out there and show it."
Game 7 between Boston and the Sixers is scheduled for Mother's Day afternoon at 3:30 ET on ABC

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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