Marcus Smart went from potential goat to hero very quickly for the Boston Celtics Wednesday night. The Celtics were leading late with the chance to eliminate the Philadelphia 76ers, but a J.J. Redick three put the Sixers within one with 3.8 seconds left. They then fouled Smart on the inbounds pass, and he missed the first foul shot, ensuring Philadelphia could win with a three, then made the second one despite perhaps trying to miss to force a scramble from the Sixers. Their chances were still rough without any timeouts and just 2.4 seconds on the clock, but they were able to dial up a long baseball-style pass from Ben Simmons…and then Smart picked it off to give Boston a 114-112 victory and a 4-1 series win.
That was a fitting conclusion to a crazy game that saw plenty of swings, with several even occurring inside the final 15 seconds. Down 111-109 with 15 seconds left, the Sixers worked the ball inside to star center Joel Embiid, but Aron Baynes defended him well, and he missed a contested layup. Embiid then got the rebound, but Terry Rozier knocked it out of his hands and off his leg to make it Celtics’ ball.
That led to a couple of foul shots, and to a 113-109 lead, but Redick then drilled a quick three to make the ending somewhat in doubt again:
And from there, it was over to Smart, whose second free throw definitely looked like an attempted miss:
It might have been more ideal for Boston if Smart had made the first free throw and missed the second, potentially creating an offensive rebound or forcing a rushed Sixers’ possession. But hey, his defensive play on that inbounds pass more than made up for it. Except maybe for some bettors:
The Celtics closed -1.5 so if you took the Sixers you just lost because Marcus Smart couldn't purposely miss a free throw. Holy bad beat.
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) May 10, 2018
Still, Smart was one of the Celtics’ unlikely heroes on the night, something that’s been a theme for them throughout this season without Gordon Hayward and these playoffs without Kyrie Irving. He finished with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists off the bench, while the not-usually-known-for-his-scoring Baynes had 13 points in just 24 minutes (plus nine rebounds). Usual suspects Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were key too, notching 25 and 24 points respectively. But it was Smart who saved the day in the end, making a great play to make everyone but the gamblers forget his accidentally-made free throw.