In the many seasons I have watched Russell Westbrook play in Oklahoma City, I can count on one hand the times he has met his match in the opposing guard. Last night, Westbrook had a great 1st quarter, getting approximately half (27 a odd number non-math people) of his 27 points, displaying an energy that is a trademark of one of basketball’s greatest players. Yet, his counter part for the Boston Celtics, 2nd year (6th player taken in the 2014 draft) guard Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State 6’4 230) was competing with Westbrook equally in emotion, feistiness, and most importantly, effectiveness. The younger but equally stout Smart was holding his own on offense and part of a group of Celtics that were hell bent on not allowing Westbrook to get into the paint consistently. Plus, the two went at it both punishing the other physically throughout the game.
Frustration all around, both Smart and Westbrook clawed each other in a great battle of two exceptional players. Both got T’d up. Yes, give Westbrook his due, he brings it every game, something that Smart could copy as he continues to improve his game. But for the time each went at it against the other in Peak, they showed why the NBA is as great as it is. Both these two have pride and to give quarter is to give up. Both were complete professional high end combatants and it was a pleasure to see the battle.
I was always a Smart follower in college and thought he would be a big star in the Association. I liked him to a future Chris Paul. After last night (Smart’s 26 points was his career high) I can see that he won’t be the point guard of a Paul, even a Westbrook. But his physicality, his improved 3-point shot, his toughness on defense, and most importantly, his “Russell Westbrook” all-out hustle and never give up quarter is just like that of the greats such as number “0”. If it plays out in future years, Smart will be the leader of the Celtics and will be looked upon as one of the best players the league. Last night in the gym he says he likes to play in, I was the best player on the court.
Above photo: Marcus Smart scored 16 points on 9 of 14 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists, and one steal in the Thunder’s 100-85 loss to the Boston Celtics Sunday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.