Marcus Smart has been one of the top defensive guards in the NBA for a couple of seasons now, but he’s failed to receive that recognition on a league-wide level just yet. Part of that has been a matter of circumstance. All-Defensive team players are generally always starters and that’s something that Smart has not been due to the presence of Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley.
Circumstances have changed though in the past few weeks. Smart has been inserted into the starting lineup and has been rewarded with starter-level minutes while helping to propel the Celtics to a seven-game winning streak since the switch has been made. That type of added workload is getting him matched up against the top guards in the NBA and he’s responded by making life extremely difficult on them.
Case in point is Wednesday’s 130-125 overtime win over the Washington Wizards. Bradley Beal is Washington’s top scorer and had a rather solid night a first glance of the box score (22 points, 8-of-16 shooting). Look deeper, though, and you see a player that coughed up a season-high six turnovers. Smart was Beal’s primary defender for a good chunk of the night and was prominently involved in all six of those miscues, doing simply what Smart does: making life miserable for opponents.
In fact, even though Smart was credited with just three steals on the night, a look at the film shows he had a hand in forcing nine of Washington’s 15 turnovers. Only three teams in the league commit turnovers at a lower rate than the Wizards but Boston managed to throw them off kilter just enough to rally from a nine-point halftime deficit and snap a four-game home winning streak from the Wizards.
Slowly but surely, Smart is building up his resume for more national recognition by doing just about everything on the defensive end. Let’s examine his work on Wednesday night more closely to see what type of difference he's providing within the starting five.