Celtics notebook: Marcus Smart puts emphasis on making plays
ATLANTA — Marcus Smart approached his season high with 18 points against the Hawks last night, but other parts of his game were even more impressive than his scoring. Smart had seven assists and six steals to spark a strong effort by the Celtics’ reserves during a 123-116 loss to the Hawks.
“I just felt comfortable,” Smart said. “The coaches said, ‘Keep shooting, they’re going to fall. You’ve put in the work, keep working.’ It definitely felt good. I felt in rhythm. I felt confident and things went right.”
Smart, a 27 percent shooter on 3-pointers, was 5-of-9 on treys last night.
Just as impactful was his floor game.
“I got the ball in my hands,” Smart said. “I’m a playmaker. I was able to find guys and make plays. . . . There was definitely more emphasis on defense because that’s who I am. It gives us a big momentum boost and lifts us up to a whole new level.”
Horford’s old haunt
Celtics center Al Horford made his second trip to Atlanta, where he played from 2009-2016. It was not as kind as his first visit. Horford was booed each time he entered the game, got in foul trouble early and had one of his worst games as a Celtic.
He scored just four points and shot 1-for-8 from the field, with that basket coming on a goaltending call. He had five rebounds and three assists and left Philips Arena frustrated.
“I felt really good about my shot,” Horford said. “The more frustrating thing for me was the fouls. It took me out of my rhythm and it was hard for me.”
Prior to the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens talked about Horford’s positive contribution to the team.
“The way he has made everybody better is so contagious,” Stevens said. “The first day he was at practice, the way the ball moved, was a direct result of him leading that charge. You had an idea of that by playing against him. I was more surprised with his versatility guarding forwards and guards.”
It was the second game against his former team since signing with the Celtics as a free agent.
“He does things the fans don’t see, what happens in the locker room, what happens on the plane,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s just a good person. He does a lot of things that impact winning.”
Rookie Jaylen Brown spent most of the time before the game sitting on a chair and watching a video replay on his iPad. Brown never looked up, pausing only to answer his phone a couple of times and tell the caller, “They’re at will call.” A native of Atlanta, Brown had to leave a handful of tickets for family and friends.
Brown was focused on learning what went wrong on Wednesday, when he scored just two points (on 1-for-7 shooting) in 19 minutes during an ugly loss to the visiting Cavaliers. That came on the heels of back-to-back double-digit scoring nights.
“Consistency is really important,” Stevens said. “We’re going to need him to go. We need him, like everybody else, to prepare to play their best on every given night.”
Brown scored seven points vs. Atlanta. He had averaged 8.5 points in two previous games against the Hawks, slightly higher than his season average of 6.6 points.
No rest for regulars
Stevens said there were no plans to rest players before the playoffs. The starting lineup was the same as its been for 33 games: Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Horford, Amir Johnson and Isaiah Thomas. The C’s are now 24-10 when that group starts. . . .
Crowder played 36 minutes and took a hard fall when he was fouled by Atlanta forward Paul Millsap on a breakaway. The officials reviewed the play, but ruled it was a common foul. “He helped me up, but it was a hard foul,” Crowder said.
Bradley and Thomas each played 35 minutes. Johnson got in foul trouble and played just 23 minutes and Horford played 26 minutes.