Marcus Smart takes a bath and helps force Game 7 to master

Marcus Smart takes a bath and helps force Game 7 to master

Game 5 was proof positive for those who never believed Marcus Smart was the appropriate point guard for this version of the Boston Celtics. He dribbled the ball 37 times in the final minute of the Celtics’ collapse, compared to one for the rest of the team, made two important errors, and had his potential game-winning basket blocked by Jrue Holiday.

Those final minutes ate me alive,” Smart said. “My guys — teammates, coaches — were doing a good job making sure that I stayed as composed as I could and keep my mind right. Because I was really hurting after that. I felt like I let my team down. ‘Just be you,’ that’s all they kept telling me. [Celtics assistant coach] Damon Stoudamire pulled me to the side and just told me — cause I dropped my head a couple times in those possessions — he was like ‘I’ve never seen you do that, and I just want you not to lose confidence in yourself because we need you.’ Coming into tonight I just wanted to go out there and make it up for my teammates and help ’em out and try to get this win.”

Game 6 was a make-or-break moment for the entire team, as they faced elimination on the road against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. There was an added sense of significance for Smart, who had been so wracked by guilt and frustration that he hadn’t been able to sleep for the past few days.

For those who have always believed in Marcus Smart as the right point guard for this iteration of the Boston Celtics, Game 6 was proof positive. A 21-point, seven-rebound, five-assist, zero-turnover masterclass complete with terrific defense and savvy game management

“That was to be expected,” Jayson Tatum said. “We got all the confidence in the world in Smart. We knew that he was gonna come back and be the player that we need him to be on the road in Game 6. He stepped up. He was big for us, especially in the beginning making the right plays.”

As any true point guard should, Smart set the tone early. He hit two 3-pointers in the opening minutes to help the Celtics jump out to a quick lead, and scored or assisted on 17 of the Celtics’ 28 first-quarter points. His confidence and composure were contagious, and ensured there would be no carry over from what happened in Game 5.

Smart’s 21 points and five 3-pointers were both postseason highs, but the most important and impressive aspect of his performance was the way he ran the show. This was his first playoff game without a turnover since Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference finals.

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