Marcus Smart stepped up his game in the Celtics’ fifth confrontation with the Milwaukee Bucks, to register a grand return on the court. He entered the match with “Mama’s Boy” and “I fight, you fight” written on his sneakers. He had been away for the past six weeks and missed all matches of the first series while nursing his thumb injury. His mother, Camellia, was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer during this time. Smart was on the court to play for his mother, so she could smile while she waits for the uncertain future.
As emotions started taking center stage, the crowd at TD Garden went bonkers for the player. He started adding smart defensive moves and contained Giannis Antetokounmpo efficiently to help the team win 92-87 and lead the series 3-2. After the match, he called his mother who is currently admitted to a Texas hospital and suggested that she is responding well to the initial treatment.
Talking about the message on his sneakers, he said, “I wrote ‘Mama’s Boy’ and ‘I fight, you fight’ — that’s what I told her. As long as you keep fighting, I’m going to keep fighting,” Smart said. “And I put, ‘F— Cancer’ — and that’s just how I feel. We’re going to beat this. My mom’s doing well right now. She’s getting better. And things are looking on the upside for us. So, we’re still positive, we’re still praying, and we’ve still got faith.”
The Celtics have emerged as a strong team in the playoffs with 2 wins against the Bucks under their belt. However, the return of Smart on the field is an indication that they will dominate their opponents whenever they meet. After winning the first two games in the seasons, the Bucks defeated them twice to even the series. Smart’s return has helped the team gain back some solid defense, which could be very helpful as the season progresses.
He and rookie Semi Ojeleye worked together to contain Antetokounmpo. Coach Brad Stevens’ decision to make Ojeleye work in the starting lineup seemed like a perfect setting for the match. The unstoppable Antetokounmpo was being smothered by the two who limited his opportunities continuously. The Greek Freak was quite appalled by this solid defense. He said, “Marcus, man, he played hard. He definitely gives that edge to the team, defensively and offensively. He definitely helped them a lot. He can definitely be an X factor for the Celtics.”
In the match, Smart managed nine points, four assists and five rebounds during his 25-minute run. Teammates were equally thrilled with his return. Horford said, “[Smart’s return] means a lot for our team. I think I said it earlier in the year that he was kind of like the soul of our team. Just everything that he brings — his toughness, unselfishness, just a hard-nosed player, and we fed off his energy tonight.
For now, his return is good news for the fans as well as the teams and if everything goes fine, he will continue to add points after points for the Celtics.