Marcus Smart struggling since one-game suspension

The Celtics struggled as a team in Sunday's home loss to the Clippers, excepting the fourth-quarter run that made the final score more respectable than the game had been to that point, but no one player had a harder time than Marcus Smart. The rookie guard went 0-for-6 from the floor in just 18 minutes and had the second scoreless game of his career, after an 0-for-5 performance in a win at Portland on January 22.

These offensive struggles are not new for Smart, who may be hitting his rookie wall late in the season after mostly playing very well since he recovered from his early ankle injury. His last double-digit scoring game was March 20 in San Antonio, where he scored 10 points before being ejected for his groin hit on Matt Bonner. Since serving his one-game suspension, Smart hasn't scored more than six points in any of the last four games, and has shot 4-for-20 with just three total assists in that span.

The return of Isaiah Thomas to the rotation doesn't really account for the slump, since Smart played more than 30 minutes in each of Thomas's first two games back. It's likely just a bad stretch like most rookies go through at some point and nothing more, but it's come at a bad time for the Celtics, as they fight for one of the last postseason berths and face three bubble rivals this week.

Defensively Smart's effort is still there, for the most part. He had four steals against Miami on Wednesday and is averaging 1.7 per game in March, so the Celtics will continue to rely on him for the energy he brings to that side of the ball. Hopefully the rest he got after not playing down the stretch against L.A. will serve him well and he can bounce back with a good offensive performance on Monday night in Charlotte.

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Image credit: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe