Boston Celtics Suffer Loss Before Playoffs Begin

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As Marcus Smart's self-identified number one fan, the news of his injury makes me want to vomit. For those who missed it, Smart has a torn left oblique, and will miss the first round, and most - if not all - of the second round of the upcoming NBA playoffs.  Smart may not be the most talented player on the roster, but he is without a doubt the heart and soul of this team.

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He is also easily the most polarizing player on the Boston roster.  Those who loathe him complain about his shot selection, streaky shooting and his emotions getting the best of him at times.  Those with a brain understand Smart's true value.  It's an old cliche, but with Smart it rings true; his impact goes well beyond the box score. 


He's Boston's best individual defender and gives the team its defensive identity.  He can defend positions 1 to 5 on the floor, and welcomes the opportunity to do so.  His hustle, grit and energy cannot be quantified.  Those intangibles become even more important when the intensity is ratcheted up in the postseason.  They will be hard to replicate in his absence.  The team, and the crowd, feed off of his energy.  There's a reason several of his teammates applauded the extension he signed this offseason.

Shop Boston Celtics Gear at Fanatics.comWhat makes Smart's absence particularly stinging this year is that he's been a much improved shooter.  He posted career highs in both overall field goal percentage, and three-point percentage this year; up a full six percentage points in each category.  His shot selection has improved as well, for the most part.

What this does bring is an opportunity for the Celtics to flex their oft-boasted depth.  Before the season started, the reserves dubbed themselves the B.W.A - Bench With Attitude.  CBS Sports had them atop its rankings of bench units across the league.  They've largely underperformed all year, struggling to find consistency in a reduced role.

Now is the chance to wash all that away.  Terry Rozier told reporters before the team's regular season finale that he couldn't wait for the regular season to be over.  It's understandable.  Coming off of a postseason run where an increase in minutes led to some of the best basketball of his career, Rozier was unable to replicate that performance consistently during the regular season.  With Smart out, he'll likely see an increase in minutes, which will hopefully bring back the Scary Terry we all came to know last April and May. 

While the Celtics will certainly miss Smart, it should not impact their ability to beat the Indiana Pacers in the first round.  They are still the superior team, especially with no Victor Oladipo.  If the Celtics offense is humming, the Pacers simply don't have enough firepower to keep pace.  I still expect Boston to get past Indiana in five or six games.  So when that happens, I don't need to hear people talk about how the Celtics don't need Smart.

It's the next round where he will be missed.  A second round showdown with the Milwaukee Bucks seems likely.  It's a Bucks team that led the NBA in scoring this year, averaging over 118 points per game.  That is a series where Boston will need all of the defensive firepower it can muster.  Milwaukee plays positionless basketball.  They will just put 5 guys out on the floor at a time, rather than a traditional lineup of two guards, two forwards and a center.  Smart's defensive versatility would be crucial against a style like that. 

Even if you don't truly appreciate the player, you have to feel for the person.  Smart is the ultimate competitor, and sitting on the sidelines during the beginning of this playoff run is going to be torturous for him.  I'm optimistic, though.  Smart is a tough guy and I have a feeling you may see him sooner rather than later.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Boston Celtics Suffer Loss Before Playoffs Begin
Boston Celtics Suffer Loss Before Playoffs Begin
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