Erica Denhoff/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

BOSTON — Much like almost every game that Marcus Smart ever played in Boston Celtics green, Sunday’s score did not matter.

No matter what point in the game or what the point spread was, Smart played every second like it was his last in the NBA, epitomizing the hustle and toughness of a franchise that is once again on the precipice of NBA glory, and also of a blue-collar town that appreciated him straining every sinew (and tearing some of those sinews, plus breaking some bones and enduring some sprains in the process) to bring a title to a sports-mad fan base.

Sunday evening allowed the Celtics faithful to thank Marcus Smart, the erstwhile heart and soul of the Boston Celtics, for nine memorable seasons as he returned to TD Garden for the first time as an opposing player after an off-season trade saw him sent to the Memphis Grizzlies. The scoreboard flashed the final score at the end of the game: Boston Celtics 131, Memphis Grizzlies 91. What mattered more to those who looked up at the Jumbotron tonight were the tributes to Smart, who was in street clothes and did not play due to a finger injury, but was present in the building as his Celtics anthology — from his hustle plays to his defensive stops to his buzzer-beaters to his community work in the Boston area — played a couple of times during stoppages in the first half.

As many Celtics observers would probably agree with, the current iteration of the team, one with the best record in the NBA and having as good of a chance as any to win the championship this season, wouldn’t be what it is today without the influence that Smart had on a number of the players and coaches on Boston’s roster.

Today’s Celtics’ rolled to another victory, while the Celtics of tomorrow and for the foreseeable future will have Smart’s fingerprints indelibly dotted all over them.

“I had a lot of respect for Smart, even when he was a very young player and how he cared about winning,” Celtics center Al Horford said after the game. “A very special person and somebody that I really appreciated when he was here with us throughout the years. To see him tonight was nice.

“Boston has real love for Marcus. And even though he’s on another team, that doesn’t change how we feel about him.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday evening’s game, with all photos taken by Boston-area photographer Erica Denhoff. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 35 pictures in total.

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Tags : Boston CelticsMarcus SmartMemphis GrizzliesNational Basketball Association

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