Marcus Smart delivers game of his life in place of Isaiah Thomas to lift Celtics past Cavaliers in Game 3

Marcus Smart delivers game of his life in place of Isaiah Thomas to lift Celtics past Cavaliers in Game 3

Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) celebrates after the Celtics beat the Cavaliers on Sunday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) celebrates after the Celtics beat the Cavaliers on Sunday. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

CLEVELAND — Now that’s the Marcus Smart we could get used to.

Starting in place of injured point guard Isaiah Thomas, who will miss the rest of the postseason with a hip injury, Smart delivered the best game of his career, scoring 27 points, making seven 3-pointers, and setting up Avery Bradley for the buzzer-beating game-winner in Boston’s 111-108 victory.

“We can talk about his shooting all year long, but you know when it’s in a big moment, that kid is going to rise to the occasion,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “He just always has. That’s one of the reasons why if he goes through a funk at some time in March, shoot yourself out of it, and we believe in you, and let it fly. Because in this moment when we needed him the most, he made huge shots. He was terrific tonight.”

Smart played all but 38 seconds in the second half, scoring 21 points. Most of his 3-pointers weren’t of the wide-open variety, either. He dazzled with pull-ups off the dribble, as well as a slick between-the-legs, behind-the-back step-back over J.R. Smith to tie the game at 95 with a little over five minutes left.

“Marcus just kind of led us,” Stevens said. “One of the things about Marcus is he’s going to play regardless of the score. Like you mentioned to me, he’s going to compete, and sometimes he’ll try to hit home runs because that’s — and then we talk about those after the game and we always say, and it’s true, those are his greatest strengths. He is a true competitor. He’s a tough guy.”

The Celtics needed it, because without Thomas, they lacked their heart and soul.

“He was aggressive from the beginning of the game,” Bradley said. “That’s what we needed him to be. A lot of people counted us out with Isaiah not being here, and he is a big part of this team. But Smart took this opportunity to come out and be aggressive on both ends of the floor and make plays.”

Smart said he didn’t try to change his mindset in place of Thomas, except to take any extra pressure off himself.

“Coming in, I just kept telling myself, you have nothing to lose, just go out there and play,” Smart said. “You’ve been working hard throughout this whole year on your game. Just let it flow and let it show. These guys and the coaching staff did a really good job of just encouraging me, especially when my shot hasn’t been falling. Free throws, missing those. They’ve just really been on me, staying on me to stay positive and keep going.”



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Source: GreenStreet Blog

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