Marcus Smart plays a big role in why the Boston Celtics win basketball games more often than not. But there are times where he just... loses his mind. It's hard to explain, yet everybody who viewed last night's Game 5 grudge match between Boston and the Milwaukee Bucks knows exactly what I'm talking about. On the final two possessions of the game for the Celtics, Marcus Smart decided it was Marcus Smart time and proceeded to get absolutely owned by Jrue Holiday twice.
The first of those two possessions exemplified an explainable, if misguided, line of thinking. Smart's teammates seemed confused about what play they were planning to run with less than 15 seconds left to try and take the lead, so he found open space to receive the inbound and suddenly a wide-open path to the basket appeared. Those kinds of paths have appeared so rarely over the five games of this tightly-contested series that Smart took advantage immediately and got within feet of the bucket before Holiday did his thing. Brutal for Smart to not finish, but it was probably a better look than anything else the team would've gotten if Smart had turtled and hurled the ball out to one of his superstar teammates to iso with single digits left on the clock.
The last possession of the game, though, is where Smart really blew it. The Bucks hit both their free throws to go up by three points and the Celtics needed to inbound, get up the floor, and get a three-pointer off in about six seconds. Milwaukee bracketed both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown so Smart got the ball again. Here's what happened, in case you forgot.
Now, right before the halfcourt line, Smart was faced with three choices. Freeze-frame time!
It does not take a keen-eyed observer to spot Tatum running free up the right sideline. That's Choice No. 1. A point guard in this situation knows they have to find their guys. Smart, in particular, needs to do so because he is a notoriously shaky three-point shooter. But he doesn't see Tatum or decides to take a different route. That's a tough pass to even see, though, much less make, and everybody yelling about how open Tatum was apparently doesn't see Giannis Antetokounmpo lurking by the free-throw line. He can cover the distance between him and Tatum in a half-second, as we all know.
The less obvious choice that will kill the Celtics when watching film is Brown running up the left sideline, AKA Choice No. 2. Holiday is obviously lurking there, too, but probably wouldn't have been able to react in time to steal the pass. Maybe tip it, but not take possession away. If Smart completes that pass to Brown, maybe he swings it over to Tatum, or takes a contested three with Holiday in his grill. That is far from a good shot, admittedly.
But it would have been a shot! Instead, Smart put his head down and seemed to decide that he'd figure out what to do once he got across half court-- Choice No. 3. This decision was perhaps made for him because he seemed to lose his handle for no reason after getting past Bobby Portis. Even so, it was clear from the get-go that Smart's first priority wasn't getting the ball to somebody who could make the shot. It was to get the ball up and then see what happens. It was the worst of the possible options in front of him, and his team paid the price.