Marcus Smart reveals which NBA players are toughest defensive matchups

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Smart reveals which NBA players are toughest defensive matchups originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Boston Celtics point guard Marcus Smart made history Monday by becoming the first guard since Gary Payton in 1995-96 to win the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Smart, who earned 37 first-place votes, beat out finalists Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert to claim the award.

The veteran guard was a deserving winner. He's the top defensive player on the team that led the league in defensive rating, opponents' 3-point percentage and opponents' 2-point percentage. Smart also guards all five positions at a high level, giving the Celtics a level of versatility very few players have.

Forsberg: Why Marcus Smart was the right choice for DPOY

Smart joined the NBA on TNT broadcast Thursday night for an interview. Charles Barkley asked Smart which players around the league the Celtics guard has to get a "good night's sleep for" before defending. Unsurprisingly, the first names Smart mentioned were Brooklyn Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

"We're playing against two of them right now in this series," Smart explained. "Everybody saw the game (Sunday afternoon) and what it came down to. I'm gonna need all the sleep I can get. Those two for sure.

"You also got guys like LeBron James, Bradley Beal, and I could go on. There are plenty of guys -- Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. When you have guys like that, as a competitor and a defender, you want to get to bed early so you can get up early and do everything you can to figure out how you're going to contain or stop these guys."

The Celtics will need Smart to maintain his elite defensive play if they're going to survive what promises to be a tough, lengthy first-round playoff series against the Nets.

Durant and Irving are two of the top shot creators and pure scorers in league history. Smart will be guarding one of them on many possessions each game, and his success in those matchups will have a meaningful impact on the outcome of the series.

Note: Games 2-6 of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series will be aired on NBC Sports Boston and can also be streamed on NBCSportsBoston.com or with the MyTeams App, which you can download below.

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