By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics had a chance to stop their skid in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. But Marcus Smart wanted to be the hero, and that losing streak is now up to four games.
Despite a disappointing performance for 60 minutes against the lowly Lakers, the Celtics had a chance to walk off the Staples Center floor with their first victory in 12 days. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed a pair of free throws with five seconds left that could have put Los Angeles up by three, giving Boston some life. Smart hauled in Pope’s second miss, and with no timeouts for Brad Stevens to draw up a play, the guard raced down the floor with late-game heroics on his mind.
Smart was surrounded by better shooters, players who knock down shots much more frequently than his 36 percent this season, and much, much better than his 30 percent from three-point range. He’s an extremely talented passer, and could have hit a racing Terry Rozier after pulling down Pope’s miss. His fellow guard would have had a great look at a driving layup for the win, or at the very least, Rozier could have found himself at the free throw line with a chance to tie or win the game.
Smart could have popped a pass to rookie Jayson Tatum on the other wing when he hit the top of the key, who even at 1-for-6 shooting on the night would have been a decent (read: better) option. And though Kyrie Irving took his sweet time to get to the top of the key after serving as a spectator to Smart’s race down the floor, his 30-foot look would have been better than a Smart heave.
While two of those options weren’t really great options, they were better than Smart going for the glory himself. When Pope cut off his lane to the basket, Smart dribbled behind his back and hoisted up a contested triple, a frustrating decision when you consider the shooter, and even more frustrating with the Celtics only in need of two points to escape with the win.
“With that short amount of time I wanted to make sure we got a shot up. It felt good when it left my hands. I thought it was going in,” Smart told reporters after the game. “That’s just how it goes. It’s over with. We’ve got to turn around and try to come up with a win tomorrow.”
Besides Irving (33 points), Smart was the only Celtic to really do much on offense on Tuesday, pouring in 22 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field. It had him brimming with confidence, and Smart is the kind of player who feeds off that good mojo. His ferocious competitive nature is what makes him the player he is, and on most nights, that leads to good things for the Celtics. He’s an integral part of Boston’s success.
But that’s not because of his shooting, and when it comes to taking the final shot, he’s not option B. He’s usually not even option C or D. He’s built like a linebacker, but he doesn’t attack the basket as much as he should, instead opting for jumpers despite the fact that he can’t knock them down with much consistency.
Smart’s hero shot is not the only reason the Celtics lost on Tuesday night. Their losing streak continued because they gave up 107 points to the Lakers, and they only earned 10 free throws on the night (to Los Angeles’ 36). You can also fault Irving for taking his sweet time to get to Smart (he stayed in the corner until 3.7 seconds remained on the clock) and not giving him a better option until it was nearly too late.
Boston’s slump is not the end of the world, and they should eventually get out of this funk. They usually take advantage of their opponent’s late miscues, like a pair of missed freebies with five seconds left. At the moment, those bounces are not going their way.
Those bounces are just a little tougher to swallow when they come courtesy of a Marcus Smart heave when there were better options available.