Gregg Popovich chose Boston Celtics 6’4″ Marcus to cover the 6’11” Greek Freak. That may be a prelude to this post-season.
Boston Celtics guard, Marcus Smart, was instrumental in Team USA’s 69-53 victory over Greece on Saturday. Coach Gregg Popovich assigned Marcus to cover Giannis Antetokounmpo, and despite The Greek Freak’s production (23 points, 13 rebounds), he was pestered by Smart for much of the game.
Instead of watching games, just focus on @smart_MS3.
It’s 100% beauty. pic.twitter.com/PLIVZvROfJ
— Tomek Kordylewski (@Timi_093) September 7, 2019
Giannis’ length, mobility and frame make him a devastating inside threat, but most rival coaches are more-than-happy to give him the outside shot. At 6’11” and a solid 242 pounds, the initial take for most would be that Smart, at 6’4″ and 220 pounds, would be over matched. Wrong! Marcus’ coverage of The Freak is reminiscent of the 6’8′ Dave Cowens defending the Milwaukee Bucks 7’2″ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But for frenetic perimeter defense on Oscar Robertson, and a diving-hit-the-floor-ball-retrieve by Dave, take a look at the 1:40 mark of the video below:
Take a look at the 1:40 mark of the video to see why I often compare Marcus Smart to Dave Cowens
— Tom Lane (@CelticsSentinel) September 8, 2019
I have argued in the past that Smart’s strength and low center of gravity allow him to very effectively guard much taller opponents – at least the ones that have trouble shooting over him from distance. Semi Ojeleye’s smothering coverage of Giannis the past two seasons worked nicely for the same reasons.
Why is this important? The Milwaukee Bucks are ranked ahead of the Celtics in all of the 2019-20 projections I have seen. There is a high probability the two teams will meet in the post-season. Stifling The Greek Freak’s scoring and rebounding will be critical for any opponent that faces them. Pop putting Smart on Giannis, with occasional triple-teaming, never allowed Antetokounmpo to get untracked. Smart proved quick enough to counter most of The Freak’s moves, and strong enough to body him to keep him away from the hoop. And it all worked.
Follow Tom at @CelticsSentinel and @_Celtics_Center