When Marcus Smart landed awkwardly on Lavoy Allen‘s foot with 11:07 left in the fourth quarter and the game tied, 75-75, Celtics coach Brad Stevens learned a lot about this Celtics team. Just five games into an 82-game grind, he learned that this team will fight for each other, especially when one of their brothers goes down with injury.
Not only did medical staff hurry onto the parquet, every teammate came over to check on Smart’s condition before he was eventually lifted onto a stretcher and carted off the court and into the Celtics locker room.
“It was really scary and then obviously he was writhing in pain, so that makes it even more scary,” Stevens said. “I’m glad to be a part of it. I’m glad to be a part of a team that feels like that.”
Jeff Green, who scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the 101-98 win over the Pacers, spoke for the team when he described the tightness and togetherness of the players.
“It was very difficult,” Green said. “You hate to see a teammate go down especially when he’s playing well. Marcus is a soldier though. He’s going to get himself back together quick. I know he’s going to work hard to get back. Tough loss for us.
“I think its just a matter of focus. I think everybody on the bench no matter if they played or didn’t play they were focused, they were into the game, they were watching the game to figure out the impact of the game if they got in. You saw first-hand guys who are focusing on the game and where they can impact. Saw Gerald (Wallace) come in, the defensive intensity he came in with. The way Phil (Pressey) played on that pick and roll, breaking down their defense it was wonderful to watch.”
With Jeff Goodman of ESPN reporting that x-rays found no break, there remained a sliver of hope that Smart could return at some point later this season. But MRIs on Smart’s left ankle still need to be examined.
“Hopefully he can get back sooner rather than later, because he’s really playing great basketball and I’m sure it’s really disappointing to be out five games into your rookie year, even if just for a little bit of time,” Stevens said. “That’s what we hope it is.
“That’s a hard situation because you know that first and foremost you think about the team. You think about the player. You think about how he feels. Your team is clearly affected by it, because they care about him, which is a good sign. And then you have to go play, and that’s hard. But I thought that, if anything, the player wants your team to play with that kind of enthusiasm and that kind of passion that those guys played with in the last 8 minutes and 37 seconds or whatever it was. So again, you feel, you hope for the best. I’ve seen some injuries that have been pretty nasty over my time and hopefully this isn’t one of them. It doesn’t sound like it from the early indications.”
With the game tied, the Celtics outscored the Pacers 22-15 in the next eight minutes, taking a 97-90 lead. But the Pacers made one final charge. They scored the next six points and had a chance at a the lead if they could only grab an defensive rebound. But it was Green who got the ball with six seconds left, was fouled and made both free throws. Indiana cut it to one again, 99-98, on an ill-advised Avery Bradley foul with 3.7 seconds left. But the Celtics found a way to hang on for their second win in five games. A total character win in the eyes of coach Stevens.
“I thought we were great defensively at the end,” Stevens said. “We were up one, Tyler (Zeller) and (Brandon) Bass subbed in and had a great defensive possession; we ended up with the rebound, we called time-out, we executed well, Avery (Bradley) got a good shot, Jeff (Green) was in rebound position, got the rebound, got fouled. We defended well. We were not trying to foul with six seconds left but we fouled. Because I didn’t think we’d be able to get a rebound, to be quite candid. I thought it would be hard to keep (Roy) Hibbert and those guys off the glass. But we got lucky that they made two, we made two, and then we got one more stop.”