Marcus Smart leads by example with hustle on defensive end

Marcus Smart is a defensive dynamo. He disrupts opposing back courts, rips the ball away from unsuspecting point guards and makes hustle plays like it's nobody's business. This determination was more evident than ever yesterday against the San Antonio Spurs. With the Celtics playing from behind for most of the afternoon, Smart's defensive intensity and play-making ability kept the C's in striking distance down the stretch. People are starting to take notice of how much chaos he causes in all aspects of the game:

This is nothing new for Boston fans. For anyone who watched the team last year, you knew that Smart was going to be a force to be reckoned with. It seems like Smart has taken on a lead-by-example mentality. He has continued to hustle and prove that he is willing to give up his body in order to make winning plays. Whether Smart is sliding in front of a driving opponent to take a charge or diving into the seat to save a ball from going out of bounds, he is always going to give it his all.

Smart's shining moment against the Spurs came with just over five minutes to play in the third quarter. He got his hand on an errant pass, outran Tony Parker before diving on the floor, taking possession of the ball and dropping a pass off to Jae Crowder for an easy bucket. The play was eerily similar to that of Rajon Rondo in the 2010 NBA playoffs against the Orlando Magic:

Via Scott Souza of the Providence Journal:

“I was just thinking that we needed the ball at the time,” Smart said. “I was able to get a hand on it. I had the step on Parker when I dove on it. Jae was just doing what he is supposed to do. He was running the court. He never gave up. I heard him call my name and he was there.”

Smart played a game-high 39 minutes and was able to make a noticeable impact whenever he was on the floor. On top of his stellar defensive play, he also added 17 points on 7-12 shooting. Even though he only managed three assists, that was more an indication of the shooting woes that Boston experienced. Smart was making the correct reads and finding the right teammates, but the shots just weren't falling.

Not only has Smart led the way on the floor when it comes to the defensive mindset of the Celtics, but he is also buying in to Brad Stevens' system and believing in the way this team is playing. Souza says:

Smart was able to hit 7-of-12 shots on a day when most of his teammates shot as though the rims were the size of those in a rigged amusement park game. But, more important, whenever he was on the floor he set a defensive tone that prevented his teammates from packing it in around him.

“You know this isn’t going to be the last time that we’re going to have nights like this [shooting], and you have to find a way to get over that hump,” he said. “We’ve got to stick to our system on the defensive end. Because when we do have those shots falling, it’s going to be fun, and it’s going to be great to watch us play.”

Smart seems to be taking the reigns more and more with each game this season. Is he ready to be the leader of this team on both sides of the ball?

Photo Credit: Steven Senne/AP Photo
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