Boston trailed by 31 points in the first half of the team’s eventual loss to Dallas on Monday night. If you just looked at the final score — 118-113 Mavericks — you would have never known how far back the young Celtics got.
If that were the case, you might not appreciate the work it took to get back and nearly win the game. Yes, the Celtics had a chance to win. They can thank their rookie for that.
Marcus Smart announced himself as a NBA player with seven points, six rebounds and three assists off the bench. Numbers do not quite do it though. Smart was just all over the place, being physical defensively and completely disrupting the Mavericks from the get go.
Combine him with Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo in the backcourt and the Celtics had a hard-nosed defensive team that did not relent for 94 feet. Dallas had to earn every inch of the floor. For a young, somewhat undersized squad, that is an impressive feat.
This is a group that worked incredibly hard the entire game. Bradley and Rondo each ran more than 2.5 miles in the game as starters. Smart had an average speed of 4.5 miles per hour!
To me this all says that they were working extremely hard, stretching the floor and getting after the Mavericks’ guards.
The Smart, Rondo, Bradley backcourt played 17 minutes together in Monday’s game. The team shot 50.0 percent from the floor with the three on the floor and posted a 129.1 offensive rating with a 120.3 defensive rating. That does not portend to much defensive impact. Smart got stuck guarding Dirk Nowitzki on a few occasions.
In nine minutes in the fourth quarter together, the threesome helped produce a 159.3 offensive rating and a 106.6 defensive rating. The trio helped force 39.5 turnovers per 48 minutes.
That is simply incredible.
Boston hounded Dallas, even in an effort that came up short.
This lineup is not going to work all the time. There are size deficiencies that are going to be too much to look over. But the way Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart shoot into passing lanes and can switch defenders and hound players the full length of the court, it could make the Celtics an incredibly tough team to oust on game-by-game basis.
They may not win a whole ton of games, but Boston’s defensive identity is still intact an the backcourt seems set for the future, even without Rondo. At least on the defensive end.