Celtics

‘I’m playing for something bigger’: Marcus Smart downplays being named finalist for Defensive Player of the Year

"I think my defense and my game speaks for itself."

Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics dives for a loose ball during the first quarter of Round 1. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Marcus Smart had two reasons to celebrate on Sunday — the Celtics won Game 1 against the Nets at the buzzer, and the NBA named him a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year.

For Smart, the former meant a lot more than the latter. A reporter asked him about being named a finalist and whether he feels he has “momentum” toward the award.

“I think I do, I think my defense and my game speaks for itself,” Smart said. “But I’m really focused on this next game we have on Wednesday. It would be an honor to win it, it’s an honor to be mentioned, but I’m playing for something bigger, and right now my focus is actually on the next game.”

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The other finalists include Suns wing Mikal Bridges and Jazz big man Rudy Gobert.

Gobert has won the award three times, most recently last season. The Jazz are the NBA’s ninth-ranked defense per Cleaning the Glass, but with Gobert on the floor, they gave up 106.9 points per 100 possessions — the same total as the league-best Celtics. The Suns, meanwhile, are third in the NBA, and Bridges’ versatile lock-down defense on the wing has been a big reason why.

Smart, meanwhile, is arguably the best defender on the best defense in the NBA. Others make the case for center Robert Williams, but many of Smart’s teammates say he deserves the award — including Williams himself.

“I think anyone on that court making an impact, no matter the position, should be able to win Defensive Player of the Year,” Williams said last month. “Marcus Smart. That’s how I feel about that.”

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