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  • Cameron Tabatabaie

Fan's Choice: Smart's Impact on the C's Starting Lineup

NBC Sports

How does Smart’s recent strong ORTG impact the rest of the C's starting lineup?

The Boston Celtics have been rolling as of late. Winners of eight of their last nine games, the C’s have been offensively dominating opponents. In that stretch they’ve averaged 123 points per contest and are a +19.2.

Quite interestingly, Boston’s recent stretch of impressive scoring has coincided with the addition of Marcus Smart to the starting line-up. Not only has this simplified head coach Brad Stevens’ offensive system, but Smart has been playing like a man possessed.

Wicked Smaht

Marcus Smart has always been a reliable, versatile piece since joining the Celtics in 2014. His impressive defense has earned him consistent minutes, while his hustle and intelligence have usually overcome otherwise average scoring.

During the past nine games, however, Smart has been incredibly productive on the offensive side of the ball. He’s posting a blistering 123.7 offensive rating.

Smart’s only averaging 8.8 points per game in nearly 30 minutes of playing time. But he is turning in 4.8 assists a night, and shooting a much-improved 35 percent from three. He’s become a true facilitator and something of a knock-down shooter.

Really, though, his high offensive rating isn’t the result of a new evolution to Smart’s game. Instead, it’s a metric of what he does for his teammates and the Celtics system, particularly alongside Kyrie Irving.

A yin-yang backcourt

In joining Kyrie Irving in Boston’s starting backcourt, Smart has given his team’s superstar the perfect running mate. Don’t take my word for it; check out what Smart told MassLive.

“We complement each other,” Smart said. “I take a lot of pressure off him. He doesn’t have to bring the ball up as much, with everybody putting as much pressure on him. On the defensive end, I take a lot off him as well to give him time to rest. In Washington that fourth quarter, that energy he needs, he has it because he’s not trying to play defense as hard on somebody, one of their best guys, bringing the ball up every time the court and somebody’s picking him up full court. I think we do complement each other really well.”

Smart excels where Irving lacks, and vice versa. It’s an interesting dichotomy that seems to bring out the best in both players.

Smart’s ability to pass and read opposing defenses is essential for this to work. Both he and Marcus Morris - another newcomer to the starting line up - have brought some veteran savvy and some toughness to the Celtics.

At the same time, Smart and Morris have pushed Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown to the bench. Now, Brad Stevens effectively has two fully-operational units that are each armed to the teeth with offensive and defensive weapons.

Smart the glue guy

Marcus Smart does the little things and he does them well. He’s a sargent on the defensive end, a surprising cheerleader on the offensive end, and as Jackie MacMullan learned, an incredibly supportive teammate.

Here’s Smart Mic’d up the other night against the Hawks. I think the above is fully on display.

There’s a simplistic wonder in adding Smart to the starting line-up. He’s not a player who frets about touches or needs the ball to be successful. Boston’s gluttony of talent proved an awkward fit early on. Smart gives the Celtics a more elegant offensive approach.

With Smart excelling in his new role, he also has that much more of an opportunity to lead by example. As Al Horford slowly rehabs his injured knee, having an experienced player that exudes hustle and determination is critical for what is still a very young Celtics team.

There’s always been a mythology surrounding Marcus Smart. It’s come alive during these past nine games. His scoring might still be lacking, but make no mistake, he’s been a critical pillar of Boston’s new offensive prowess.

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