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The Boston Celtics are learning that having Marcus Smart in the lineup is the key to putting them in the win column. The Celtics saw their nine-game win streak come to an end Wednesday night at home against the struggling Detroit Pistons. Sure enough, Smart was in street clothes after suffering an ankle injury in Philadelphia the night before.

Smart is the engine that makes the Celtics go. He’s the unquestioned leader on a team with two young stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. While Tatum and Brown get all the ink, it’s Smart who’s the heart and soul of the team.

Marcus Smart is the real leader of the Boston Celtics

Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at TD Garden on February 11, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts. | Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images.

Tatum and Brown are usually the top two names that come to mind when speaking about the current Celtics. They are the young guns, the All-Stars, the ones who fill the stat sheet.

Smart, however, is the one who gives Boston an edge. He brings an attitude and toughness to a team more known for its finesse. He’s become a fan favorite in Boston, a city that falls in love with its unsung heroes.

Smart feeds off that crowd and appreciates the passion Celtics fans have win or lose.

“The way that they cheer for us at the Garden, and the way that they also boo your ass when we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do — they let us know,” Smart said recently during a live taping of the Old Man & the Three podcast with JJ Redick.

“They keep us grounded. Only the best fans do. It’s like a good friend: You don’t want the one that always says yes; you want the one that’s gonna be honest with you no matter what. And that’s Boston fans.”

Marcus Smart shows his worth to the Celtics without even playing

Smart was injured during Tuesday night’s blowout win on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers. He rolled an ankle and sat out the remainder of the game. He also missed the following night’s game in Boston against the Pistons.

Detroit entered having lost eight straight, and Boston was a winner in its last nine. It came down to the wire with Tatum missing a jumper from the top of the key at the buzzer as the Pistons won 112-111.

It’s fitting that Smart wasn’t on the court in the loss. It’s also not surprising. He also was out in back-to-back losses right before the Celtics started to get hot.

After those consecutive losses, Smart returned to the lineup Sunday, Jan. 23, at Washington, and Boston cruised to a 116-87 victory. They followed that up with a 53-point win over the Sacramento Kings. After a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Boston rattled off nine straight wins.

Without Smart, the defensive leader, on Wednesday, Boston surrendered 112 points in the loss to the Pistons. It was the most points given up by the Celtics since Jan. 15.

Smart always tells it like it is

While Smart lets his competitive play do the talking, he’s shown he can be pretty vocal himself. And he’s not afraid to call anyone out.

Earlier this season, when the Celtics struggled to get to the .500 mark with loads of frustrating losses, Smart spoke up. After Boston blew a 19-point lead in the third quarter against the Chicago Bulls, he called out Tatum and Brown. He did so publicly.

“Every team knows we’re trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen,” he said after the loss. “Every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball.

“That’s something that they’re going to learn. They’re still learning. We’re proud of the progress they’re making, but they’re going to have to make another step and find ways to not only create for themselves but create for others on this team to open up the court for them later down in the game.”

The Celtics won four of their next five games. Whether he’s taking a charge on the court or taking charge off it, Smart is the real leader of the Celtics.


Marcus Smart Gets In the Boston Celtics’ Box Score Without Even Playing