Nobody more thoroughly embodies the Boston Celtics’ “whole deal” than Marcus Smart, a stubborn defender who can put opponents and allies alike in pain with alternating bouts of brilliance and hardheadedness. The Celtics’ over-reliance on him as a spiritual anchor and creative force is delightful, and one play late in the third quarter of Monday night’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans really got to the heart of it.
With 0.3 seconds left on the shot clock, for the Pelicans, Payton Pritchard tipped an uncontested jump ball back to Smart, who did his best to javelin the ball toward the hoop before the buzzer. Smart displayed shrewd awareness of the time left on the shot clock. Unfortunately, he forgot which team it applied to (not his).
Smart’s boo-boo confused the masses and sent color commentator Brian Scalabrine into a laughing fit. Smart’s teammates downplayed the incident after the game, with Kemba Walker calling it “just a little mistake.” That’s true, especially in the context of what happened afterward.
The Celtics couldn’t stay within striking distance of the Pelicans through the fourth quarter, as Zion Williamson was able to get to the rim whenever he wanted. Smart had an eventful quarter in the worst way, as he was called for a flagrant foul after elbowing Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the face then got himself ejected with 24 seconds remaining for arguing with an official. I’d be frustrated too if the other team had someone this big running the point.