US basketball

Celtics’ Marcus Smart becomes first guard to win NBA Defensive Player award in 26 years

Reuters
Celtics’ Marcus Smart becomes first guard to win NBA Defensive Player award in 26 years

BACKCOURT LOCKDOWN. Marcus Smart wins his first career Defensive Player of the Year award, marking the first time a guard won it since Gary Payton did in 1996

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports-Reuters

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart wins his first career Defensive Player of the Year award, beating out Phoenix's Mikal Bridges and Utah's two-time award winner Rudy Gobert in a tight race

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart notched a career highlight on Monday, April 18 (Tuesday, April 19, Manila time) when he was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, marking the first time a guard won the award since Gary Payton in 1996.

Payton, the Hall of Famer himself, led the surprise awarding for the burly 6-foot-4 guard before Celtics practice.

Celtics’ Marcus Smart becomes first guard to win NBA Defensive Player award in 26 years

Smart, an eight-year veteran, helped the Celtics lead the NBA in fewest points allowed per game (104.5), lowest opposing field-goal percentage (43.4) and lowest 3-point percentage (33.9). Boston finished with a defensive rating of 106.2, which was best in the league.

The 28-year-old Smart tallied 37 first-place votes and 257 points overall to win the award. He beat out top-five finishers Mikal Bridges of the Phoenix Suns (202 points), Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz (136), Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat (128) and Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies (99).

“Definitely want to thank you guys, man, my coaching staff, my teammates,” Smart said in a video posted on social media by the Celtics.

“It’s not easy playing in this league full of guys like Jayson (Tatum) and Jaylen (Brown), who score the ball the way they do, and getting the recognition on that defensive end trying to guard these guys every night. This is eight years, man, just trying to do what I do, you guys have allowed me to do that.”

Celtics’ Marcus Smart becomes first guard to win NBA Defensive Player award in 26 years

Smart finished the regular season sixth in steals (119) and seventh in steals per game (1.68). He recovered 75 loose balls, tied for fourth in the league. –Rappler.com