BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Celtics lost for the first time in two weeks on Wednesday night, dropping a hard-fought game 122-118 to the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
Boston rookie Marcus Smart had his best offensive night, scoring a career-high 25 points (14 in the second quarter) to go with nine rebounds and five assists. But his impact went much further than his stat line, as Smart aggressively fought for every loose ball and played some frustrating defense against MVP candidate Russell Westbrook.READ MORE: Boston Wine Store Earns 'Small Business Of The Year' Award From US Chamber Of Commerce
That’s something Celtics president Danny Ainge was well aware of when he drafted Smart sixth overall last summer.
“Marcus has worked hard and he wants to be a great player. More than anything, my favorite characteristic of Marcus, and we saw it last night, is his desire to win,” Ainge told Johnston & Flynn (filling in for Toucher & Rich) Thursday morning on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “He’s not a fancy, flashy player that fills box scores, he just gets his hands on balls, deflections, charges taken, fouls drawn and loose balls recovered.
“You’ll never see him shine in a box score consistently, but he’s a winning player,” said Ainge. “He’s all about winning, and that’s my favorite thing about Marcus.”
While Westbrook still scored 36 points, he shot just 8-for-26 from the field thanks to some tough defense by Smart and fellow guard Avery Bradley. Ainge was pleased with his team’s effort Wednesday night, but was disappointed with the end result.READ MORE: Pfizer Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine More Than 90% Effective In Kids
“There was a lot of good things that happened in the game last night. Overall, it was a disappointing loss. I know our guys were playing hard, but I don’t think we came out in the third with enough urgency,” said Ainge.
The Celtics took a 57-53 lead into halftime, but were outscored 40-24 in the third quarter.
“It seemed like last night, there was so many balls that we had in our hands that we just didn’t get. That was probably why it was more disappointing. You just have to want that ball more, and it seemed like it happened time and time again for whatever reason. We had plenty of open shots and opportunities to grab rebounds and loose balls that we just didn’t recover.”
Ainge praised the job Brad Stevens is doing with this team, and admitted that the current Celtics roster is not the perfect collection for the young head coach.
“I don’t think we have a perfect fit around Brad and his style,” said Ainge. “Brad has adapted to the people we have, as much as anything. Brad is a tireless worker and is constantly trying to fit in the new players; we’ve had to juggle a lot of players over the last couple of years as we try to build a championship team. This is not a perfect fit, other than the fact we have really high character guys who play hard night in and night out. I think that is really refreshing to Brad and he’s really enjoying coaching this group of guys.”MORE NEWS: Hopkinton High School First In State To Drop Mask Mandate