The Boston Celtics have been without their main source of energy for over a month now, and it has been quite the struggle. Since Marcus Smart’s unfortunate leg injury in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 30th, the Celtics have gone 7-9. Underperforming against some of the worst teams in the NBA. Before Smart’s injury, he had become a big time leader on the team, averaging 13.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, and a team-high 6.1 assists per game while being a team leader on defense.
In Smart’s absence, the lack of energy, bench depth, and team confidence was shown in full force. Without an emotional leader to man to floor, the Celtics seemed lost in many winnable games. In a Sunday matinee battle against the New Orleans pelicans on February 21st, the Celtics held a 24 point lead in the 3rd Quarter of the game. The Celtics went on to lose that game in Overtime, 120-115.
Without Smart, the Celtics seemed as though they were going through the motions, no defensive intensity and allowing Zion Williamson to walk through the Celtics’ defense. It is games like these where Smart’s intensity, leadership, and game-changing plays will make a difference.
From the beginning of the season, fans have criticized GM Danny Ainge for a lack of bench depth. Marcus Smart’s injury immediately created a hole in the depth of the Celtics. Rookies Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith’s roles were changed and both had an increase in minutes played. Semi Ojeleye was able to score a career-high 24 points, and Javonte Green was able to start in a couple of games. The Celtics turned to a super young core in Smart’s absence, and greatly miss his veteran leadership.
With Smart likely out until after the All-Star break, but is “getting a lot closer,” Stevens said about Smart returning as the Celtics will have to fight to stay above the .500 mark without him. The Celtics currently sit at 17-17, not exactly where the team expected to be 34 games into the season. The Celtics need Marcus Smart back, but at the same time they don’t want to rush him back. Hopefully though for the Celtics Smart can get back on the floor quickly.
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