Memorable Homecoming For Celtics' Smart Despite Loss To Mavs
BOSTON (CBS) -- Marcus Smart didn't get a win during his first homecoming as a pro Monday night in Dallas, but the result didn't ruin the evening for the rookie point guard.
"It was a good night," Smart told reporters after the game, in which he played in front of 30 friends in family. "It was a good crowd out there, especially for me being from here. It was a good night all in all, even though we didn't come out with the victory."
Smart started off the night slow against the Mavericks, along with the rest of his lethargic teammates. Boston fell behind by as many as 31 points in the first half of the game.
For the final 24 minutes of the game, however, head coach Brad Stevens managed to motivate his troops to play with a renewed sense of purpose on the defensive end of the floor. Smart was a major factor in the second half shift.
Smart's finishing box score line on the night wasn't too impressive (seven points, six rebounds, three assists, plus a block and a steal), but the young guard's hounding ball pressure undeniably played a huge role in what could have been a historic comeback for the Celtics.
"[Marcus] defended with purpose," Stevens said afterwards. "He got into the ball. Both he and Avery [Bradley] got into the ball really well."
The 20-year-old took turns matching up with nearly everyone on the Mavericks roster, from Jameer Nelson to Dirk Nowitzki in the fourth quarter, after Stevens elected to go with a small-ball lineup that featured Bradley, Smart, and Rajon Rondo. Stevens spoke about that lineup in greater depth at a Celtics practice last week, noting how much of a role Smart's versatility and ability plays in that grouping.
"Obviously there's disadvantages to that [lineup], too, because of size," Stevens said last Thursday. "But Marcus' strength, he weighs 230 pounds – gives you a chance to guard guys that are bigger and taller. Marcus gives you that luxury a little bit."
Smart fared well in the varied head-to-head matchups in the second half of Monday's game, as the small Celtics lineup wreaked havoc against the Mavericks and the visitors clawed their way back into the game.
"It was a big role for me," Smart said of his defense after the loss. "Everyone knows I am a defensive person. Defense comes first for me. Coming out in the second half, the first group picked it up and the second group that got out there just had to maintain that same energy."
The mountain ended up being a bit too high for the Celtics to climb in the end, and Jeff Green and Bradley missed potential game-tying opportunities in the closing minutes. Throughout the whole fourth quarter the Celtics squandered several other chances to even the score, something that Smart lamented after the game.
"Every time we'd get a stop and were ready to take over and transition, they'd come up with an offensive rebound and hit us with a dagger. Dirk was 4-of-4 from beyond the arc…that hurt us a lot."
While Nowitzki was a force all night for the Mavericks, Smart was one of the few guys that helped slow him down on the Celtics. As the team returns to Boston for action Wednesday night, look for Smart to try to continue to set the tone for Boston on the defensive end.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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