BOSTON -- Asked if he expected Marcus Smart to be especially motivated for Monday's game in Brooklyn after being suspended for Sunday's overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner was particularly blunt.
"Obviously, as a team, he owes us one," said Turner. "I think we’re all motivated."
Turner wasn't being hostile, just brutally honest. The Celtics are fighting for a postseason berth and Smart's absence was painfully noticeable as Boston let a win slip away against the Pistons.
Smart served a one-game ban Sunday after delivering an uppercut to the groin of San Antonio's Matt Bonner during Friday's loss to the Spurs. Smart got snagged coming off an initial screen, but seemed to intentionally swing his arm to strike Bonner as the San Antonio forward attempted to set a second screen. Smart was assessed a flagrant-2 and ejected from that game; the league added a one-game suspension on Saturday.
"I thought [the suspension] was predictable, so I’m not really surprised," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "Hopefully it’s an isolated incident and we move on from it. I felt like, after watching it again... it's clearly an unacceptable play. As I said the other night, it's as simple as that."
Smart has now been assessed two flagrant-2 fouls this month and is dangerously close to another one-game ban that will come if he commits another flagrant-2 before the end of the regular season. The NBA assigns points for flagrant fouls -- one for the more minor flagrant-1 and two for flagrant-2 -- and players are suspended after reaching five points in a season.
Smart, the No. 6 pick in June's draft, has proven to be an agitator on the court and plays full tilt, which has contributed to his flagrant troubles. He was trying to draw contact on a drive to the hoop when he elbowed fellow rookie Elfrid Payton in the head and drew his first flagrant-2 earlier this month.
Stevens believes Smart will learn from Friday's incident.
"I don’t have a concern, other than he’s up to four [flagrant] points and he’s going to have to be -- you gotta be able to balance that [competitive] spirit with doing the right thing, and he will," said Stevens. "He will."
Stevens was asked if he's worried about Smart developing a reputation for plays like Friday's low blow that could leave him susceptible to increased scrutiny from officials.
"Sure, but I think he’s still young enough where he has to be aware of that," said Stevens. "But he also has to just continue growing and doing the right thing all of the time, right? What we love about Marcus is his competitive nature, his competitive spirit. But he has to handle that situation better, there’s no question about that."
Stevens said he addressed the issue with Smart, but noted there wasn't much to discuss. The coach's focus shifted to playing Sunday's game without Smart.
"He realizes it impacts the team when he’s not on the court any more," said Stevens. "At the same time, I’ll let him say whatever he feels like saying. From our standpoint, it was unacceptable and the punishment is what it is."
Jonas Jerebko, acquired at last month's trade deadline, but one of the more veteran players in the Celtics' locker room, said he talked to Smart about the incident as well.
"I just told him that he’s one of our most important players and he’s young, but you have to think about what you do out there and be smart," said Jerebko. "Like I said, I haven't seen the play, I was the one switching out [to defend Smart's man], so I didn’t really see that either. If the NBA suspends you for one game, you did something wrong. I told him that we really need him, there's only  games left, and you have to keep your head cold and play out the games. That's basically what I told him."
Turner can't beat the buzzer
The Celtics put the ball in Turner's hands in a tied game with 17 seconds to play in regulation on Sunday, but he couldn't generate a quality final shot.
After dribbling the clock down to 5 seconds, Turner attempted to drive down the right side of the lane while Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk cleared space. Turner got all the way to the baseline, but lost control of the ball trying to go up over Reggie Jackson and the ball floated harmlessly above the pair until time expired, forcing an extra session.
"We just wanted to do a little misdirection for Evan to drive and let him create space," said Stevens. "I thought, if he gets that shot off, that’s his shot. I felt good about it, to be honest. It didn’t end well because it got knocked out of his hand or maybe it even slipped out of his hand -- I haven’t seen the replay. I thought he had separation and I thought he was going to get a good look. When the clock was winding down, I felt pretty good about our chances."
The Pistons scored the first seven points of overtime and led by as much as 11 in the extra five minutes.
The Butler Way
Stevens admitted he stayed up late on Saturday night to watch the Butler-Notre Dame thriller in the NCAA tournament.
That, too, didn't end the way the coach would have preferred in an extra session.
"It was a great game," said Stevens. "First of all, hats off to Notre Dame, they played great. I thought Butler represented everything that’s great about Butler basketball."