Celtics Marcus Smart showing balance and impact post-break
The Celtics are on a four-game win streak following the All-Star break, and Marcus Smart has been integral in that run. I honestly feel that Marcus will be retired before we figure out what exactly drives and motivates him, but for now, I will break down the post-break Smart and the Marcus that we saw prior to his injury.
His minutes are down roughly 19% for the past four games, from a season average of 29.8 MPG to 24.2. This may be Brad Stevens' way of re-integrating Marcus back into the fold, or it may be an attempt to send a message for Smart to play a more-balanced game between offense and defense.
Points, rebounds, assists, turnovers, steals and fouls:
His points per game are nearly the same post-break, down to 9.8 from 10.1, despite the minutes reduction. Rebounds have dropped from 3.4 RPG to 2.0, while assists have increased from 4.7 APG to 5.5. Post-break steals are up to 1.8 SPG from 1.3. He is fouling less frequently, going from 2.6 FPG to 1.8.
How has Smart impacted the game during the 4-game streak as opposed to the season thus far? The difference is quite significant. His plus/minus pre-break was +3.8. Post-break it is +8.3. In other words, he is having a more-positive impact on the games with fewer minutes.
Offensive, defensive and net ratings:
His Offensive Rating for the season thus far is 105.5, while for the recent streak it is 118.3, a major increase. His Defensive Rating faltered a bit, going from 99.1 to 102.6. His overall Net Rating (the difference between the two numbers) has risen from 6.3 to 15.7.
Marcus Smart, undeterred by James Harden's filthy crossover ("It was a good shot"), relishes chance to guard him on Saturday. "I love it. It’s an opportunity for me to challenge myself on the defensive end and each and every day I’m up for those type of challenges." pic.twitter.com/qM9CvPgbkq
Marcus is definitely shooting better in the past four games. His field goal percentage has increased from 36.8% to 53.6%, while his 3-point shooting went from 30.1% to 33.3%. He seems to be choosing his shots more carefully with the reduced minutes, putting up an average of 7.0 shots/game as opposed to 9.5 for the season. His 3-pointers have dropped from 4.5/game to 3.7.
What does all of this indicate? First of all, Marcus is back on the floor and the team has won all four games, albeit against weaker teams. Smart is playing fewer minutes but shooting better and having a more-positive impact on the games. His defensive impact may have fallen slightly, but his offense has come around. The Net Rating increase shows his positive impact is there. In general, it seems, at least for the four games, he is playing a more-balanced game, sacrificing a bit of defense to focus more on efficient offense.
The primary law of survival is be aware of your surroundings, closely followed by don't lose your balance. Tunnel-vision can be harmful - even fatal. Marcus seems to be trying to achieve a sense of balance in his play and in his life. It is starting to show on the court, and it shows in other parts of Smart's life. His work with kids is admirable, to say the least. He takes on James Harden and the Rockets tomorrow night. Covering Harden is a full-time job for anyone, so Smart's offensive game may suffer a bit for this one game. The balance may have to tip somewhat temporarily.
Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC
Photo via Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images