With Jae Crowder out for the next couple weeks, the burden is on Marcus Smart to fill in for Crowder in his role of defending small forwards and bigger guards. Last night in a loss to the Indiana Pacers, Smart's primary responsibility was to defend Paul George, one of the better wings in the league. George finished with 25 points on 9-16 shooting and also had 7 rebounds. Smart finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block.
Obviously the task of guarding George proved to be a little too daunting, even for one of the better defenders at the guard position in Smart. However, there were times where the young Celtic seemed to be bothering George quite a bit with his suffocating defense and even managed to rip the ball away in a highlight worthy steal. He contested almost all of PG13's shots well but in a make or miss league, the superstar George made all of his tough shots.
How's Marcus Smart handling Paul George early on? This should show you: pic.twitter.com/glchHhmYI8— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 15, 2016
Now the task for Smart gets even harder with the OKC Thunder coming into town tonight as the Celts face off against two of the top players in the world in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Last time against the Thunder, Smart had one of the most impressive games of his career as he scored 26 points and held Westbrook to 27 points on an abysmal 5-20 shooting from the field and 2-10 from three point land. However, with a three guard starting lineup, Smart will most likely be tasked with defending Durant for the better part of tonight's game.
Smart believes that he has the ability to stay in front of small forwards and to disrupt them:
Marcus Smart on being the go-to defender on George/Durant: "I just try to get up in them a little more, use my strength and quickness."— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) March 15, 2016
He's certainly going to have to use all of his strength and quickness to stay in front of Kevin Durant. KD is one of the most prolific scorers the NBA has and to make things even more difficult, his length and height makes it almost impossible to stop him. He's also averaging 28 PPG, 8.2 RPG, to go along with 4.8 APG as well. Smart is one of the best in the league at suffocating his man and forcing them to take tough shots. Given that Durant doesn't have the best strength in the world, the Celtics guard could use his imposing will to his advantage to force Durant to take more outside shots instead of getting inside the paint.
While obviously this is a lot easier said than done, I trust Smart's ability to adapt to his opponent. We should definitely look for Brad Stevens to also use the trio of Bradley, Turner, and Smart as the primary defenders against Westbrook and Durant. It looks as if it will be Bradley defending Westbrook and Smart on Durant, with Turner defending Durant when he comes in which would force Smart to Westbrook. It's going to be a very difficult task tonight dealing with the dynamic duo of OKC, but in a night in which it almost feels like a "must-win" game, I think the Celtics can get the task done. We'll see if Smart and the rest of the defense is up for the challenge.
Image Credit: Elise Amendola/AP Images
Follow Kevin Yazhari on Twitter @KevKevYazhari Kevin Yazhari 3/16/2016 11:02:00 AM Tweet Edit