Making life easier for others: Marcus Smart excels in Boston Celtics win over Grizzlies

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart excelled on both sides of the floor for the Boston Celtics in a 109-106 win over the Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart excelled on both sides of the floor for the Boston Celtics in a 109-106 win over the Grizzlies Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /

In a battle against another contender in the opposition conference, the Boston Celtics demonstrated their versatility on both ends of the floor while Jayson Tatum continues to put himself in the MVP conversation. On top of Tatum’s astounding 39 points, where the former Duke forward got to his spot on the offensive end anytime he wanted, the play of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year kept Boston under control throughout the night.

Marcus Smart had an exceptional all-around game, netting 15 points to go along with a game-high 12 assists and seven boards. He opened up the game for Tatum to make the right decision, finding the pockets in the Memphis half-court defense with his vision, and underrated decision-making. Smart and Tatum combined for four turnovers against a physical Grizzlies defense.

Following the statement win over a young Memphis team, Joe Mazzulla spoke on his relationship with Smart, stating:

"“Me and Smart have had great conversations…Like I said, we were both point guards, both been around each other for a long time. So, our conversations are about how can we just affect the game on both ends of the floor and just make the right play. He’s done a great job focusing on that. Like I said, I fully trust him to make the right play.”"

Right from the get-go, Smart was on a mission to put a stamp on the game, driving right into the chest of Santi Aldama and finishing on the opposite side of the basket with his right hand. Smart always had his head on a swivel, looking for a cutter or a teammate in a perfect position to put the ball through the basket. He is not just a stand-still passer, Smart moves, and cuts into the space, making room and pockets to pass through for at least two of his teammates.

From his alley-oop to Tatum early on to creating his own space and linking up with Jaylen Brown for an easy two, Smart made everyone’s job easier in a clash against a team that had allowed their last two opponents to fewer than 100 points. He may be a streaky shooter, but Smart always seems to knock one or two timely threes when the Boston Celtics need the spark the most.

In the last two seasons, the former Oklahoma State product has averaged two or more turnovers per contest, but on the contrary, to begin this campaign, Smart is one of four players in the NBA right now to average at least six assists and no more than 1.5 giveaways per contest. He has dished out five or more assists while turning the ball over under twice per game on eight occasions through just 10 games.

Marcus Smart’s floor generalship a reason turnovers are down for the Boston Celtics

Boston is fifth in the NBA in fewest turnovers at just 13.2 per game while in the postseason last year, the Celtics averaged around 14.7 giveaways. Marcus Smart is a massive reason why this has been a habit this team has begun to break early on this year. Jaylen Brown may still need some work giving the ball away far too much, but if the leader of the team takes the initiative to do it, others are going to follow right behind him.

The Grizzlies lead the league in the steals department at 9.8 per game, but at home against the Boston Celtics, Memphis was only able to collect four with a dialed-in Boston offense on the other side. It may only be 10 games into the season, but the positives of this Celtics’ team far outweigh the negatives.

Just a year ago, people were calling out Boston to get a real point guard to run the show, and since then, Smart has proved everyone wrong. His assist numbers have never been higher and with the combination of his ability to take care of the basketball, his offensive creativity becomes just as important as his All-NBA defensive talents.

He may be shooting the worst percentage from three of any Celtic this season, but his contributions to the charity stripe, and creating offense for others make up for some of his shooting woes. He has the second-best defensive rating on the team for players that have contributed in more than 12 minutes per game. Everything that Smart does not always make it on the stat sheet, but his display guiding the Celtics on offense against a contending team is a positive sign for things to come.