Marcus Smart's Absence Finally Being Felt

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The Boston Celtics defense is suffering.  After a tremendous effort in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup, Boston has allowed the Milwaukee Bucks to post 123 points in back to back games.  Game 3 was particularly bad as Milwaukee shot better than 50% from the field.  Were it not for Eric Bledsoe, that mark would have been even higher, as five Bucks shot better than 50% from the field. 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
The Celtics were sixth in the league in three point defense during the regular season.  In Games 2 and 3 of this series, Milwaukee has shot better than 40% from three.  Milwaukee's offense has now exploded in the third quarter in back to back games; scoring 39 points in Game 2 and 40 in Game 3.

If the Celtics are going to even the series up tonight, they need to be much better defensively.  They have to find a way to keep Milwaukee under 100 points, or at least in the low 100's.  They need to slow things down.  If Milwaukee gets up into the 110's, Boston will have a difficult time keeping pace, as evidenced by these past two contests.

Yes, the officiating has been frustrating, but it's a cop out to say that's the reason they have lost these last two games.  There are other reasons, within the game, that Boston has dropped two straight.  It starts with the defense.  There hasn't been any.  There's been little energy and resistance.  Brad Stevens says this a lot, that you can't let your offense impact your defense.  It's felt like that has happened in the last two games; particularly in the third quarters.

And that is where the absence of Marcus Smart has been felt.  That is one guy who, no matter what happens on the offensive end of the floor, it will never impact his effort on the defensive end.  Boston's defense has struggled because they are missing their best individual defender.  It's that simple.  It's not even an X's and O's thing.

Yes, there are certain things that Boston can and can't do on the defensive end without Smart, but the most important thing he's going to bring to the floor is energy.  That can be infectious.  Not only does it energize the crowd, but his teammates as well.  That's why his rumored return for Game 4 would be a major boost.

Smart's not going to come back and shut down Giannis.  What he will do is ensure guys like George Hill and Pat Connaughton don't come off the bench and have the type of games that they did in Game 3.  He'll get up in the face of ball handlers, and make them uncomfortable.  He'll speed things up for guys, which can help lead to turnovers.

Boston's defense without Smart wasn't exactly exposed in the first round, because quite frankly, Indiana's offense wasn't good enough.  Milwaukee has one of the most explosive offenses in the NBA.

Boston was in a similar situation last year against the Bucks.  Tied 2-2 in the first round, Smart returned for Game 5 and was all over the floor in that game, sparking Boston to a win.  Smart could very well return tonight, and finish with 3 points, on 1 for 5 shooting; but if Boston's defense is locked in, then he will have done his job.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: Marcus Smart's Absence Finally Being Felt
Marcus Smart's Absence Finally Being Felt
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