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Before Game 2 between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets officially began, the Celtics organization recognized Marcus Smart and his NBA Defensive Player of the Year award with a pre-game presentation.
He’s the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton in 1996, an award that exemplifies his ability to put the clamps on foes like no one else in the league can.
Smart didn’t have to do a thing to validate his status as one of the best defenders of his generation.
But in typical Marcus Smart fashion, he didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
He’s a vocal player, but Smart tends to let his words speak for him.
And what we saw from him defensively against Brooklyn, was an acceptance speech for the ages as Boston rallied for a 114-107 win against the Nets and now have a 2-0 series lead in the best-of-seven series.
Jaylen Brown was sensational down the stretch for Boston, scoring 10 of his team-high 22 points. The Celtics bench got major contributions from Grant Williams (17 points) and Payton Pritchard who scored eight of his 10 points in the decisive fourth quarter.
But the job Smart did defensively on Kyrie Irving was unlike anything we had seen in a long, long time.
Irving scored just 10 points against the Celtics, none of which came on Smart’s watch.
Smart blew up screens set by Brooklyn attempting to free Irving up.
And when Irving tried to go at Smart one-on-one, it either led to Irving giving up and passing to a teammate, or taking - and making - a shot that would be off the mark with Smart draped all over him.
As much as the focus of this series has had plenty of verbal back and forth between Irving and Celtics fans, Smart kept his focus on one thing in Game 2 - keeping Irving in check.
His ability to do so took away one of Brooklyn’s primary sources of scoring, paving the way for Boston to rally from being down as many as 17 points in the second half.
It was an impressive win, the kind that was indeed an all-hands-on-deck kind of affair, the kind of game that reminds us all why the Celtics have been one of the NBA’s top teams for months and why despite Brooklyn’s immense star power with Kevin Durant and Irving, Boston has proven to be the better team in this series thus far by doing a lot of little things and getting big contributions from many which includes Smart.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s Game 2 win as the series moves to Brooklyn for Games 3 and 4.
Jaylen Brown: Like most of the stars for both teams, Jaylen Brown did not get off to the best of starts scoring the ball. But as the Celtics began to chip away at Brooklyn’s lead in the fourth quarter, it was Brown leading the charge. He would finish with a team-high 22 points, 10 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter.
Marcus Smart: He only scored 12 points, but his imprint on the game was undeniable. Former Celtic Kyrie Irving is one of the best scorers of this generation and a future Hall of Famer. And he was as big a non-factor as we’ve seen him in large part because of Smart’s hawkish defense that limited Irving in every sense of the word.
Bruce Brown: From the very outset, Bruce Brown didn’t waste any time putting his imprint on the game. Brown scored the first nine points of the game as Brooklyn built a double-digit lead in the first quarter. He would finish the game with 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Al Horford: Having a three-day gap in between games has been a good thing for Al Horford and the Celtics. Horford’s impact in Game 2 was one of the low-key factors in Boston’s victory. He had 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting to go with six rebounds and two steals before fouling out.
Goran Dragic: For years, Goran Dragic has been a pain in the Boston Celtics’ side. It was more of the same in Game 2 with Dragic scoring 18 points off the Brooklyn bench on 8-for-14 shooting from the field.
Grant Williams: It’s hard to imagine Grant Williams playing much better than he did in Game 2. He scored a playoff career-high 17 points with a flawless game offensively, making all four of his shots from the field as well as all six free throw attempts. In addition, he had six rebounds and two blocked shots.
Payton Pritchard: It’s clear that Payton Pritchard isn’t going to play a ton of minutes. But as we saw in Game 2, that doesn’t mean he can’t play a pivotal role in Boston’s success. It was Pritchard’s long, 2-pointer that gave Boston its first lead of the game, 94-92. Pritchard scored 10 points for the game, eight of which came in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Durant: Game 1 was bad for Kevin Durant (23 points, 9-for-24 shooting). Game 2 was even worse as Durant scored 27 points but shot just 4-for-17 from the field. Boston has made the seemingly immortal-playing Durant very human in this series as Durant went the entire second half of Game 2 without a single-made basket.
Kyrie Irving: The seemingly non-stop vitriol between Kyrie Irving and Celtics fans, wasn’t an issue in Game 2. Apparently, that’s not a good thing for Irving and the Nets. Irving never gave Celtics fans much to jeer about with his play, scoring just 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting.