Celtics Lead

Could Smart Be Boston’s Hidden Offensive Spark?

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The Boston Celtics receive their first lull in NBA action this week, earning three days off after a 124-107 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night. Brad Stevens rolled out a new starting lineup to open the game, slotting Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart alongside the usual trio of Kyrie IrvingAl Horford and Jayson Tatum. For Smart, it was his first start of the season.

Smart played admirably in his team-high 39 minutes. Tasked with guarding the underrated Jrue Holiday, Smart held the point guard to just 13 points, while Holiday committed eight turnovers. He also registered an impressive block on a Holiday dunk attempt.

But lost among Smart’s defense and the Celtics’ overall dominance of the Pelicans was his quietly solid long-range shooting. Smart went 2-5 from deep Monday, nailing both of his wide open attempts. Not a great line, but notable, especially when Smart is often labeled as one of the worst shooters in the Association.

A Growing Trend

Smart’s broad shooting numbers don’t inspire much confidence. However, a deeper look shows flashes of impressive accuracy. He’s greatly improved his mid-range shot; Smart is converting at a 41% clip from 3-10 feet and a 43% rate from 10-16 feet (both career highs). He’s also finishing with remarkable success– 76.9% within three feet of the hoop. All this has resulted in a 46.9% two-point percentage, the highest of Smart’s career and better than teammate Jayson Tatum.

And as for the long ball? Smart currently holds a 31.3 3P%, which is still poor. Over his last ten games, however, Smart has posted five contests with multiple made threes. In those games he shot a combined 15-28, or 54%! The other five saw the 24 year-old go 0 for 9… which is much less promising. But holistically, the past ten games have resulted in 41% accuracy from deep. For a shooting guard historically inept at his job title, Marcus Smart’s recent revelation, albeit streaky, is a change C’s fans have waited on for years.

Fans around the league raised their eyebrows when the Celtics gave Smart a four-year, $52 million contract last summer. Despite being one of the best defenders in the NBA, Smart’s then lack of an offensive game prompted murmurs about his salary being too high. Yet this year, his growth has led to a career-high 107 offensive rating. Smart has improved his efficiency and continued his underappreciated passing skills. He still dominates matchups against all positions on defense.

The Celtics, currently owners of the league’s 26th best offense, need another spark. If Marcus Smart’s shooting continues its trek towards respectability, he could make a case to start every night, justify his contract, and propel Boston’s attack.

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About Ethan Fuller

Hailing from Portsmouth, NH, Ethan is a journalism student at Boston University and writes about the Celtics for TLSM. His chief basketball teams are the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Ethan is also a still-growing ultimate frisbee player.

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