Marcus Smart continues to step up when it matters most

Marcus Smart may go on cold shooting spells for like 60 percent of the regular season. He may be a 29% three-point shooter through his career and 28% on the year. But when it matters most, the kid steps up to the plate and delivers.

Just ask his head coach. Brad Stevens has always deployed Smart with confidence regardless of whether he was shooting 0-10 or 7-10. Stevens had this to say about Smart following his shooting outburst in the Celtics' three-point win.

The sixth pick of the 2014 draft posted a career-high 27 points on 14 shots, along with seven assists and five rebounds. Coming into Game 3, Smart had been shooting 0-4 from downtown in the series. Yet, he was hitting from all over the perimeter Sunday night and ended up seeing seven of his ten attempts fall:

Remember when Kevin Love couldn't seem to miss from outside and drained seven treys in the first half? Yeah, well Marcus finished with a better shooting night. Who would've thought?

Smart is the only player in NBA History to hit seven three-pointers after shooting poorly from three (<30%) in the regular season:

Also, he joined the elite company of players to shoot 7 of 10 or better from three in a road playoff game. Kind of an overly specific stat, but cool nonetheless:

His 27 points were a career-high. He had reached 26 points twice in the 2015-16 season, but he had never really gotten close to this number in the Playoffs. Check out how he shattered his former Playoff-highs:

It's not just the number of points and threes that Smart got. It was how he was getting them. It really seemed like starting in Isaiah Thomas' spot in the lineup rubbed some of the little guy's shooting skills off on him. He was pulling up in defenders faces and splashing contested shots over them. His shots at the 7:42 and 5:50 marks of the fourth quarter are just big-time buckets taken right out of the IT4 playbook:

This kid was born for the big moments. It wasn't just Game 3 - or even this postseason - that has taught us this. Playoff Marcus Smart is simply a different breed:

As mentioned, Smart is a 29% career three-point shooter. In his 26 career playoff games, though, Playoff Marcus has shot 37%. He has brought that percentage up every year from 23% in 2015 (in just four games), to 34% in 2016, and now 41% through this postseason.

It's usually diving on the floor for a loose ball, taking a charge, or snagging a rebound over much larger big men that give Smart the legitimacy as a player who makes game-winning plays down the stretch. In Game 3, it was much more than that. The Celtics needed someone to step up, and Smart was up for the challenge -- like he always is.

Follow Erik Johnson on Twitter: @erikjohnson32

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images