Marcus Smart is ready to put his left ankle sprain in the past and make his season debut against the Bulls on Wednesday, as we learned earlier this week. His return was going to bolster Boston's defense and depth no matter what, but another match up against the guard-heavy Chicago Bulls is perfect timing.
In the Celtics' loss to Chicago last week, their lack of rebounding and perimeter defense were two of the major concerns. Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo, and Michael Carter-Williams were a combined 29% career three-point shooters coming into the night, yet hit a total of 10 threes at a scorching 66% success rate. Wade in particular was extra surprising, tallying nearly half of his three-point total from all of last season in his first game of the year (He hit four that game after only making seven in the 2015-16 regular season).
They stayed hot from deep in their following two wins against the Pacers and the Nets, shooting 42.9% and 40.7% from three as a team, respectively. They currently lead the NBA in offensive efficiency with 115 points per 100 possessions, with help from a match up with the Brooklyn Nets.
The Celtics' scouting report will no doubt be much different than the first time around. They now know what the Bulls frontcourt may be capable of doing from three and will adjust accordingly so that Avery Bradley isn't playing perimeter defense with both hands down at his side like he often was. Along with the altered scouting report, Smart's return will still make it much easier to deal with Chicago's talented guards.
Smart always makes life difficult on opposing shooters, so his perimeter defense will be evident. But he should also help with the rebounding issue that killed the Celtics last game in Chicago. Celtics.com's Taylor C Snow talked with Brad Stevens about how Smart will help bring down more boards for the C's:
"Marcus is a good rebounder, generally,” said coach Brad Stevens, “and he’s good at blocking out. We were a little bit better against Charlotte (on the glass), but we still have a long way to do. We’ve got to get better and we’ll be tested in that regard again on Wednesday."
His impact on the second unit cannot be stressed enough, either. The bench gave up a huge lead that the starters had built against Brooklyn in the opener, and have not held up well on the defensive end thus far. Smart will come in with guns blazing and provide an irreplaceable source of energy and defense off the bench. Snow had a word with Terry Rozier as well, who raved about what Smart brings to the team:
“He’s definitely going to be a huge help for us,” said fellow second-teamer Terry Rozier. “You feel his presence; he’s always talking, he’s loud and he’s just somebody that anybody should want on their team. So he’s definitely going to help our second unit.”
Smart will quickly make his presence felt in his season debut by helping stop the Bulls' guards, rebound the ball, and be a spark for the second unit. His return could not come at a better time.
Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32
Photo of Smart by Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports Erik Johnson 11/01/2016 12:43:00 PM Tweet Edit