BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics were without Avery Bradley for Saturday night's win over the New Orleans Pelicans, meaning guard Marcus Smart was thrust into the starting five.
Smart answered with his best offensive game of the season, dropping 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He even hit his shots from downtown, draining five of his seven three-point attempts after entering the evening 29 percent from long range.
But as is his forte, Smart was a key part in Boston containing Anthony Davis on the defensive end. The 6-foot-4 guard spent time on the 6-foot-11 Davis in the first half and didn't back down, which he never does from a defensive challenge. For the season, Smart is holding the opposition to 3.5 percent below their season field goal percentage (via ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg, according to NBA's player-tracking date) and to just 34.2 percent shooting over the last 10 games.
Celtics radio analyst Cedric Maxwell joined Steve Burton on WBZ-TV's Sports Final on Sunday night to discuss Boston's recent stretch of winning basketball, and made it clear that he is a big fan of what Smart brings to the floor every night, even if the guard isn't putting the ball in the hoop.
"I love Marcus in the fact that each and every night, he might not knock the jump shot down, but what you'll see is something sensational on the defensive end. Every night, he opens your eyes," said Max. "Marcus is only getting better every night. One thing Brad Stevens said is that Marcus competes, and competes on every play."
The Celtics have found their stride, winning 10 of their last 12 games, and now trail the Toronto Raptors by just one game for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. That sets up a battle for the two-spot in the East and the Atlantic Division lead when Boston visits Toronto on Tuesday night.
Maxwell says the Celtics, as they're built right now, will have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs. But they'll need that super star player Danny Ainge has been searching for the last three years if they want to be a serious title contender.
"This is a team, right now, built for the regular season. They'll get better in the postseason, but you're still looking for that one guy who is a super star," said Maxwell. "They have that Brooklyn pick and there are more things they can possibly do; there are trades that can be made. But this team right now, how they're constituted, they can be a good playoff team but not a championship-contending team."
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