By Marc D’Amico © | @Marc_DAmico
Via Celtics.com ©
November 8, 2014
BOSTON – For a moment, time stopped. Emotions boiled over. Hands covered mouths. Mouths gasped for air.
Boston’s promising young rookie, Marcus Smart, was down. He wasn’t getting up.
He agonized in pain under Boston’s basket, his hands grasping around left leg. His future was in doubt, directly in front of 17,000-plus pairs of terrified eyes.
Was it a blown out knee? Had his Achilles popped? Did his leg break?
Every soul in TD Garden feared the worst, including Brad Stevens.
“It was really scary,” Stevens said after his team rallied to beat Indiana 101-98. “And then obviously he was writhing in pain, so that makes it even more scary.”
This wasn’t just any player on the floor. This was a player who has built a reputation for getting up. Every. Single. Time.
Smart is only five games into his NBA career, but it is already understood that he’s as tough as nails. Nothing, many believed, could cast a chink in his armor.
“The guy’s tough, man,” said Jeff Green, whose open-heart surgery taught him a thing or two about the subject. “It’s plan and simple. He’s just tough.”
Toughness, however, couldn’t turn the pain off.
The game clock stuck at 11:07 of the fourth quarter for nearly 10 minutes as Smart lay on the floor, following his attempt to score on a fast break. Those 10 minutes felt like an eternity.
With an arena’s worth of eyes watching down on him, and with every one of his teammates and coaches standing by his side, Smart was placed onto a stretcher and wheeled away. As he gazed back to the court and toward his brothers in green, Smart gave one simple gesture that fueled the remainder of the night.
“He put his thumbs up and that let us know he was still good and in good spirits,” said second-year point guard Phil Pressey, who filled in admirably in Smart’s absence. “We just wanted to get this win for him.”
Against all odds, the Celtics made that happen. The stared adversity in the eyes and beat it.
“It’s tough to see a teammate go down the way he went down, not knowing what the circumstances were of his injury,” Green said, “but the game had to continue. We had to pull ourselves together quick.”
The Celtics quickly rallied around their fallen teammate, and it showed in their play. They outscored the Pacers 26-23 over the remainder of the contest, coincidentally accounting for the final margin of three points.
Boston played inspired basketball across the board over the final 11-plus minutes of the game. Everyone from Phil Pressey to Jared Sullinger to Gerald Wallace to Brandon Bass made contributions. They banded together as one and would not allow this game slip away.
This game was important to them. This game was for Marcus.
“It all was for him,” an emotional Green stated after the game. “That guy came into the game when we were going through our downside of our game and he came and brought some good energy. It was tough to see him go down, but that game was for him. We got the win for him.”
After going nine days without the taste of victory, this night tasted extra sweet to the Celtics. And became even sweeter once the game was deposited into their win column.
Boston’s players and coaches made their way back to their locker room to find positive news waiting for them. Initial feedback indicated that Smart might have sidestepped a devastating injury.
“We’re hoping it’s a (left ankle) sprain, but we don’t know that,” Stevens relayed to the media. “So obviously a great deal of concern for him, number one, and hopefully he can get back sooner rather than later.”
In the meantime, Smart’s teammates will be right by his side, just as they were Friday night as he was carted off of the parquet. This group is a family, as Jared Sullinger called it, and each of its members truly care about one another. That’s why time stopped when Smart went down. That’s why basketball took a back seat for 10 long minutes.
That’s why this win was for Marcus.
“I’m glad to be a part of it,” Stevens proudly stated at the end of the night. “I’m glad to be a part of a team that feels like that.” – Marc D’Amico