There’s no victory in the Boston Celtics series against the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the 2020 East Playoffs without Marcus Smart, and the block he made in the game’s final minute against Raptors guard Norman Powell is just the exclamation point on why.
“That block was so special — it was unreal,” related teammate Kemba Walker after the win. It wasn’t just Smart’s defense that won the day — he had plenty of help, and a times from surprising corners.
Key plays by rookie teammate Grant Williams down the stretch and solid defense from second-year center Robert Williams III combined to cover for teammate Daniel Theis, in foul trouble late.
But that block in particular is one of the key turning points of a game filled with them.
“That’s why he’s first-team all-defense,” Walker added. “He shows it night in and night out. He made so many huge plays tonight. A lot of the things he does just go unnoticed … he’s special, man. He’s on a different level at that end of the basketball court.”
Also of note is the eerie similarity to a sequence late in Game 6 that saw Smart face off with Powell in that game’s waning seconds, the Toronto guard converting the old-fashioned 3-point play to help secure a win.
“That block is funny, because as soon as Norman caught the ball, instantly I remembered last game where that exact same play he came at me full-court and got the and-one,” recounted Smart. “ close game, and it put them up I think three. So when he caught the ball in my mind, I’m like ‘he has to dunk it, I’m not going to give a foul, I’m just going to meet him up top, and we’ll see who wins that battle.’”
“I’ll bet on myself 110% of the time — I’m First Team on defense for a reason, and I believe in that wholeheartedly,” added Smart.
Boston fans — and his teammates — tend to agree wholeheartedly.
“The hustle, the block, the toughness, offered head coach Brad Stevens, “he’s a huge part of our team. He’s a huge part of our organization.
“I said this before the playoffs, we’ve got a chance to play in every year he’s been here, and it’s not a coincidence.
At this point in Smart’s tenure — the longest of any current Celtic — that is abundantly clear.