Playoffs 2020

Boston Celtics Jayson Tatum calls Marcus Smart 'the best defender in the league'

Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors did not disappoint.

In a thrilling, back-and-forth contest, the Celtics came out on top to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals behind a superstar-like performance from Jayson Tatum with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

The All-Star forward did a little bit of everything to help his team pick up the win, but he wouldn't take all the credit. When being interviewed by Charles Barkley and the NBA on TNT crew after the game, he was asked to describe what it's like to play with guys like Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis who "beat the hell out of people and are fun to watch," per Barkley.

After Tatum joked about Shaquille O'Neal not knowing Theis' name on the broadcast following the Celtics Game 6 loss, he gave his teammate Smart the highest possible praise.

"Smart is first team All-Defense. The best defender in the league, in my opinion," Tatum told the NBA on TNT crew.

"He made the play of the series, getting that block on (Norman) Powell with 30 seconds left."

The play was immaculate and one that will not be forgotten by Celtics fans any time soon. The chasedown block was LeBron James-esque and just might have saved Boston's season, considering Powell's layup could have tied the game with a minute left.

"Smart just makes those plays that don't really show up in the stat book but can change a series and change the dynamic of a game," Tatum continued.

"If you're going to war in a Game 7, that's who you want on your team."

He's not wrong. The two-time first team All-Defence selection was stellar in every area of game in this series, giving the Celtics the boost they needed without Gordon Hayward (ankle) in the lineup.

Smart averaged 15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game, and that doesn't even begin to describe what he meant to his team.

His five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of Game 2 helped the Celtics get out to a 2-0 series lead. He nearly ended the series in Game 6 with the first triple-double of his career. In Game 7, it was a modest 16 points, six assists, three steals, two rebounds and game-saving one block to go with 44 minutes of pure heart and determination that sealed Boston's trip to the Conference Finals.

All in a day's work for the jack-of-all-trades Marcus Smart.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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