Celtics coach Brad Stevens had no issue with the NBA suspending guard Marcus Smart for one game for striking Spurs forward Matt Bonner in the groin Friday. But Stevens also doesn’t think the incident is indicative of a larger pattern with Smart.
“What we love about Marcus is his competitive nature, his competitive spirit,” Stevens said. “But he has to handle that situation better.”
With 8:56 left in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 101-89 loss to the Spurs, Smart tangled with Spurs forward Aron Baynes as Baynes tried to set a screen. As he shook free from Barnes, Bonner was waiting with another screen, and Smart swung his right arm forward in an uppercut motion and struck him.
Smart, who served his suspension during the Celtics’ 105-97 overtime loss to the Pistons on Sunday, said Friday that the play was a “freak accident.” The NBA disagreed, clearly, and so did Stevens.
“Hopefully it’s an isolated incident,” Stevens said, “and we move on from it.”
Stevens said he is concerned that Smart has accumulated four “flagrant points.” Players receive two points for each flagrant-2 foul and one point for each flagrant-1. If Smart accumulates more than five points this season, he receives an automatic one-game suspension.
Smart received a flagrant-2 when he elbowed Orlando guard Elfrid Payton while driving to the basket in the final minute of the Celtics’ 103-98 loss to the Magic on March 8. Stevens said he understood that fiery play is part of what makes Smart successful.
“You’ve got to be able to balance that spirit with doing the right thing,” Stevens said. “And he will, he will.”
Forward Jae Crowder started in place of Smart against Detroit.
Van Gundy impressed
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said he has been impressed by the play of Celtics forwards Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome, who were acquired from Detroit about an hour before the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
“Certainly, Jonas has continued to play really well,” Van Gundy said. “I mean, he was having a very good season for us. And then Gigi is getting his first real opportunity to play, and he can really, really shoot the ball. And they’re utilizing that very well.”
Van Gundy said that when his team parted with forward Kyle Singler in the trade for Reggie Jackson, it left a void at small forward. So Detroit sent Jerebko and Datome to the Celtics for Tayshaun Prince.
Datome, who played a total of just 17 minutes for the Pistons this year, is averaging 4.4 points per game with the Celtics. Jerebko averaged 5.2 points and 3.1 rebounds with Detroit and is averaging 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds as a Celtic.
Before Sunday’s game, Jerebko made no secret of his desire to grab a victory against his former team, and he called the 105-97 overtime loss the “toughest one” since he joined the Celtics. He finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Prince’s playing time has increased slightly with Detroit, from 22 minutes per game to 24.9, although his scoring has fallen from 8.4 to 6.7 points. But he had a big moment against the Celtics.
With 1:15 left in the fourth quarter and the Pistons trailing, 85-83, Prince spotted up in the right corner — directly in front of the Celtics’ bench — and drained a 3-pointer, his second of the period.
“Right before I shot that shot, somebody in the stands said, ‘Oh, that’s good,’ ” Prince said. “And I looked at him. It wasn’t no bad talking or nothing like that. Not at all. Before the game when I was on the bench, when I was in the game, fans were saying, ‘Appreciate your time here, way to be professional.’ So it was all kind things.”
Jerebko played a busy 21 minutes off the bench Sunday, accumulating 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 fouls — while taking 12 shots.
Datome was quite the opposite with nothing to show in the box score for his five minutes.
Thomas out again
Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas missed his seventh consecutive game because of a bruised lower back. Stevens said Thomas probably would not travel to Brooklyn for Monday night’s game against the Nets, but could return later in the week. The Celtics have a key home game against the Heat on Wednesday before traveling to face the Knicks on Friday.
Thomas suffered the injury March 9. On Sunday, he briefly walked through the locker room before the game, and appeared to be moving much more fluidly.
Stevens praises Butler
The Celtics’ schedule allowed Stevens to watch on television as his former team, Butler University, played two NCAA Tournament games this weekend. The No. 6-seeded Bulldogs defeated No. 11 Texas on Thursday before falling to No. 3 Notre Dame in overtime Saturday, 67-64.
“I thought Butler represented everything that’s great about Butler basketball,” Stevens said.