As the Celtics let a winnable game against the struggling Detroit Pistons slip away on Sunday night, it was hard to ignore the valuable piece that was missing from the team's lineup.
Rookie point guard Marcus Smart was forced into a spectator role after the league handed down a one-game suspension following the rookie's low blow on Spurs forward Matt Bonner during Friday's game.
After Boston's shorthanded roster suffered a 105-97 overtime loss to the Pistons that featured Detroit's starting backcourt combining for 44 points, Evan Turner spoke bluntly when asked about Smart's return to the floor for Monday night's game against the Brooklyn Nets.
"Obviously, as a team, he owes us one," said Turner. "I think we’re all motivated."
Without Smart available, coach Brad Stevens was forced to go deep into the team's young depth chart and juggle his rotation with unusual lineups in the midst of a competitive playoff race. Boston could have beat the Pistons without their starting point guard, but Smart's absence demonstrated just how valuable his presence is to team's success.
Teammates like Jonas Jerebko tried to make that point to Smart before the game.
"I just told him that he’s one of our most important players and he’s young, but you have to think about what you do out there and be smart," said Jerebko. "If the NBA suspends you for one game, you did something wrong. I told him that we really need him, there's only  games left, and you have to keep your head cold and play out the games."
Smart was not at the TD Garden to address the media about his suspension, but Stevens indicated that the 21-year-old understood the consequences of his action.