Tagged in: mikal bridges

Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year award for first time

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been named NBA Defensive Player of the Year, the league announced Monday.

It’s the first DPOY award for Smart, who is the first guard to take home the honor since Gary Payton in the 1995-96 season. Payton was on hand at the Celtics practice facility Monday to give Smart the award.

In a social media post later Monday, Smart stated he was “blown away” by the honor.

Smart received 257 points (37 first-place votes) to finish first in voting. Forward Mikal Bridges of the Phoenix Suns (202 points, 22 first-place votes) and center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz (136 points, 12 first-place votes) ended up second and third, respectively, in voting from a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.

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Smart concluded the season ranked seventh in the NBA in steals per game (1.68) for a Celtics team that led the league in defensive rating (106.2) and points allowed per game (104.5). He also was ranked fifth among all NBA guards with a defensive rating of 105.2, and was first in the league with 1.1 loose balls recovered per game.

Smart, who started each of the 71 regular-season games he played, also finished tied for 10th in deflections (106) and charges drawn (16) and had a career-high 3.2 defensive rebounds per game.

The eighth-year player is the second Celtic ever to win DPOY, joining Kevin Garnett (2007-08).

Big men have dominated the award since its inception in 1982. Smart and Payton are only the two point guards to have won it. Shooting guards have won it another five times, but none since Michael Jordan in 1988. And centers and forwards have won all the rest, including Gobert in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

Speaking last month, Smart said guards deserve more respect in the voting. “I’m not taking anything from the bigs,” he told ESPN.

“A vital part of the game is protecting the paint. But, as guards, we do a lot more before [our man] gets to the paint. … Contesting the 3, contesting pull-ups, making sure he doesn’t get to his spots.”

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Booker, Ayton push Suns past Lakers 108-90

Devin Booker continued to distance himself from a hamstring injury that cost him seven games, scoring 24 points with nine rebounds and seven assists as the Phoenix Suns earned a 108-90 victory Tuesday night over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Booker played 32 minutes and went 8 of 16 from the field one game after he was on the court for 26 minutes in his return Sunday during a blowout triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.

“I feel great, man, and I think every game it’s going to feel better,” Booker said. “I’m just getting some runs up under me but we have a good team that makes it easy to mesh with and get back with. When you have the support of all 15 guys, plus the coaching staff, it gives you a lot more confidence when you’re out there.”

Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Mikal Bridges scored 14 as the Suns won their fourth straight game and improved to 2-2 on the road since the end of their 18-game winning streak Dec. 3.

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LeBron James scored 34 points for the Lakers, who lost their third game in a row as coach Frank Vogel remained in health and safety protocols for the second straight.

Four Lakers players also are in protocols, including starting guard Avery Bradley.

“Obviously, we are in a rough patch right now with guys in and out of protocol, guys who are injured,” James said. “We just have to stay together until we become whole, or as whole as possible. But I love our fight. I thought we had a good fight tonight, we just couldn’t make enough plays.”

Russell Westbrook had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who were without star Anthony Davis for the second consecutive game. Davis is expected to miss at least four weeks with an MCL sprain in his left knee.

James injured his left ankle with 6:05 left in the third quarter when he came down on the right foot of the Suns’ Jae Crowder. He remained in the game but looked hobbled the rest of the way.

“Yeah, I’ll be ready for next game,” James said.

Losing Booker for 2 1/2 weeks could have sent the Suns spiraling backward, but they found success and still hold the best record in the NBA as Christmas approaches.

“I think a big part of it comes down to our team culture, how guys step into situations and we remain ourselves,” said Cameron Johnson, who also had 14 points.

“You can see our identity on the court when we have everybody. It’s a group of guys that likes playing together and we play for each other.”

After a slow start and a 54-52 lead at halftime, the Suns led by as many as 13 in the third quarter on two occasions and carried an 85-73 lead into the fourth. The Lakers’ Carmelo Anthony was ejected in the third period when he argued a non-call after a shot attempt and received his second technical.

Phoenix’s lead reached 20 points for the first time at 100-80 with 5:17 remaining on Johnson’s 3-pointer.

Chris Paul had 11 points and nine assists for the Suns, who face the Oklahoma City Thunder at home Thursday before their Christmas showdown in Phoenix versus the Golden State Warriors. JaVale McGee had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Veteran guard Isaiah Thomas scored three points on 1-of-11 shooting in his third game since signing with the Lakers on Friday. Talen Horton-Tucker had three points on 1-of-13 shooting for Los Angeles in his first game back from health and safety protocols.

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