After being sidelined with an ankle sprain sustained on January 21st against the Toronto Raptor, reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart made his return to action last night for the Boston Celtics in their final game before the All-Star break. Boston dropped the Detroit Pistons 127-109, and did so behind an impressive offensive performance as well as a historic performance from Smart.
In the 11 games he missed due to injury, the Celtics went 6-5 without their starting point guard and one of the best facilitators. During his Celtics ranked 27th in field goal percentage (46.4%) and 19th in assists per game (24.6), and in his return, the Celtics shot 53.3% from the field and tallied 30 assists on the night. It was the 12th time this season that the Celtics notched 30 or more assists; Boston is 11-1 in those games.
Marcus Smart tied his career-high for steals in the first half with 4, and finished the night with 9 points on 4-of-6 shooting along with 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 steals, and two turnovers over 29 minutes of floor time. Smart also became the first Celtic since Rajon Rondo to have at least 6 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 steals in a game. Boston’s energy was through the roof, and in his first game back from injury, Marcus Smart was at the heart of it.
“We missed him a lot,” said Head Coach Joe Mazzulla on Smart in his 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 & then everybody plays that way” For all of the talk in the past about the team needing a “true point guard”, this year’s Celtics play on an entirely different level with Marcus Smart out on the floor, as he’s been crucial as a playmaker and pace-pusher on offense.
“Huge, defensively I think it was clear,” said Malcolm Brogdon on Smart’s impact in Boston’s win. “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. He’s a facilitator…he’s a guy on the floor that has great chemistry with everybody.”
“Feels real good,” said Marcus Smart on being back on the floor for the Celtics, “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.”
On how his ankle felt going into the game, Smart said “I was a little bit comfortable, on the more comfortable side right away. 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.”
Marcus Smart and the majority of the Celtics will now have some time to kick back and relax for a few days as the All-Star break kicks off in Salt Lake City. But as soon as the remaining games kick off again, expect Smart to be back at it full throttle the rest of the season as the Celtics try to seal away the top seed in the conference with authority.