It has been an up-and-down week on court for Boston Celtics’ rookie Marcus Smart in the Orlando Summer League but he had by far his best performance on Thursday with a dominating second half performance to lead the Celtics to a 76-67 win over the Orlando Magic.
Smart started slowly and scored just four points in the first half on 2-from-7 shooting, but stepped it up a gear in the second half. He aggressively attacked the rim and kept the Celtics in the game throughout the third quarter. Smart scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, going 7-from-8 at the free throw line, knocking down two three pointers and capping it off with an impressive spin-move to the basket.
Smart topped off an impressive night out with three rebounds, five assists and a steal as well as playing stellar defense and forcing a number of turnovers from the Orlando guards. He appeared more confident, attacking the basket and taking over the game as fellow guard Phil Pressey struggled.
The one drawback for Smart through summer league play has been his shooting and that continued on Thursday. He went just 5-from-14 from the field including 2-from-9 from deep. Smart has connected on just 28 percent of his shots in his four summer league appearances despite averaging 13.5 points per game.
It was a big matchup for Smart who went head-to-head with Orlando rookie guard Elfrid Payton. Payton, who was selected 10th overall by the 76ers before being traded to Orlando shot up draft boards during workouts and like Smart is praised for his all-around game and versatility. Payton filled up with stat sheet with eight points, nine rebounds and 10 assists but also had seven turnovers, many of which were forced by the defensive pressure of Smart.
The Celtics finish their four games with a 3-1 record and will playoff against the Indiana Pacers for third position at 10 a.m. on Friday. After really finding his feet in the second half against the Magic, the Celtics will be hoping to see a more assertive, confident Marcus Smart on the offensive end.
Smart’s defense has been outstanding all week, his ability to work the pick and roll has been impressive and his passing has been a pleasant surprise. He clearly operates better with the ball in his hands at the point guard position right now, while showing the defensive versatility to defend both guard positions and even some small forwards.
After tomorrow’s game, Smart, who has now officially signed his rookie contract with the Celtics will now look towards training camp as the team skips the Las Vegas Summer League. He will fight with the likes of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and new addition Marcus Thornton to earn minutes and impress coaches prior to the start of the season in October. Defense is usually the quickest way for a young player to work his way into a rotation and judging by what we’ve seen in Orlando, Smart could be a big part of the Celtics present as much as its future.