Stat highlights Smart's remarkable Game 1 defense – and suggests a change


Want to know why Marcus Smart is one of the NBA's five best defenders? Look no further than Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Miami Heat scored a total of 12 baskets after the third quarter in their overtime win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

Guess how many of those buckets came against Smart? Zero.

As NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh points out, the Celtics guard helped neutralize several of Miami's potent weapons, including sharpshooter Duncan Robinson, who was held scoreless on possessions when Smart was his primary defender.

Kyle Lowry knows how Robinson feels. According to Haberstroh, the Toronto Raptors guard averaged just 6.4 points per 75 possessions when Smart defended him in their their East semifinals matchup, a significant drop from his average of 17.5 points per 75 possessions.

Smart indeed is an equal opportunity harasser: Every player Smart has guarded for at least 50 possessions this postseason -- Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Tobias Harris, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby -- saw their scoring drop significantly when the pesky Celtics guard defended them.

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Unfortunately for the Celtics, Smart only guarded Jimmy Butler on about six possessions Tuesday and wasn't defending the Heat star when he made go-ahead buckets in the final minute of both regulation and overtime of Miami's win Tuesday.

For Haberstroh, that begs an obvious question for Thursday's Game 2: Should Celtics head coach Brad Stevens invite Butler to "Marcus Smart Island" by having Smart defend Butler more often?

The stats certainly suggest Smart could neutralize Butler in the pivotal moments where he victimized the Celtics in Game 1. So, if you see No. 36 in green shadow No. 22 in white on Thursday, just know it will be no vacation for Butler.

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