During his absence, the Celtics missed Marcus Smart. They missed his defensive intensity, his passion on the court and his undeniable playmaking ability on both sides of the ball. Numerous times during his stint on the injured list, people were realizing how much Smart meant to this team and, specifically, how much the defense could struggle without him.
Last night in the team's win over the Brooklyn Nets, Smart showed flashes of how much of an impact he can make while still on a minutes restriction. Although he is still getting his shot back after extended time on the shelf, Smart finished the game with seven points, four rebounds and three assists. While the numbers were certainly not eye-popping, Celtics fans understand that Smart doesn't need to stuff the stat sheet in order to make his presence known. He can do that by making plays like this:
You don't walk the dog on Marcus Smart's watch. https://t.co/hk8ZRZUIfn— Brian Robb (@CelticsHub) January 5, 2016
While it may seem insignificant or just a highlight play, this is what the team was missing in Smart's absence. He brings a level of intensity on the defensive end of the floor that nobody else on the team can. Jae Crowder is a quality defender who can get in the passing lanes, but Smart creates actual havoc. He can single-handedly disrupt an opponent's possession in a way that is unique to him.
There is no denying the fact that Smart has a long way to go to reach his full potential on the offensive end of the floor, but he has proven that he can have a huge impact on any game with his defense and hustle. Regardless of a minutes restriction, Smart is coming onto the court and influencing the team in a positive way. It will be interesting to see how the rotation works itself out once Smart is back to 100 percent, but as of right now, the team is just glad to have him back.
It may be a stretch, but I think Smart embodies the identity of this year's Celtics team. He is a quality player who plays a tough, relentless style of defense. If you are going to oversimplify things, that's what the Celtics are. They are a group of quality players who, when they are at their best, are playing an elite level of defense that can win them games.
What should Smart's role be moving forward? Once the minutes restriction is lifted and he is healthy, should he move back into the starting lineup?
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP Photo
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