Marcus Smart

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Marcus Smart didn’t give Giannis Antetokounmpo any space in USA’s win over Greece

Nick Friar
September 07, 2019 - 10:51 am
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Seven inches. Twenty-two pounds.

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That’s the size advantage Giannis Antetokounmpo is working with against Marcus Smart. Yet when the Celtics guard was tasked with covering the Greek Freak on Saturday, he bodied him up as well as anyone ever has. As much as Smart had to stay in Antetokounmpo’s hip pocket, his help defense was on-point, as well. He was patient and closed out on shooters well.

Now, the FIBA rules allow for players to be more physical. Some of the stuff going on between Smart and Antetokoumpo probably wouldn’t be allowed in the NBA — which is a shame. But for the most part, Smart’s defense will translate, which is a great sign for the Celtics, who need to figure out which player will guard Antetokounmpo when they play the Bucks next season.

Brad Stevens could also look to Jaylen Brown, who shut the 2019 MVP down in the first and second quarters after he’d made easy work of Harrison Barnes to start the game. (Of course, the Celtics still have Semi Ojeleye, as well.)

Brown and Smart also had Barnes’ back after the game. Giannis’ brother, Thanasis, fouled Barnes on a breakaway dunk when the game was well at hand. He made a play for the ball, but it was clearly out of frustration and threw the Kings wing off.

After the game, Smart talked to Thanasis and Brown spoke to Giannis. It didn’t look like they were making dinner plans.

Team USA didn’t exactly put on an offensive clinic either on Saturday, winning 69-53. Kemba Walker led the U.S. with 15 points and six assists. He shot 50 percent from three (3-for-6), but wasn’t at his best inside the arc (2-for-6).

Brown scored eight points and had nine rebounds. He missed all three of his three-point attempts and only went 2-for-4 from the free-throw line.

Smart didn’t do much offensively, scoring his only three points at the charity stripe (3-for-3). But he only took three shots in his 17 minutes, so he wasn’t forcing the issue too much.