Boston guard Marcus Smart said the referees gave defending MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo special treatment in overturning a charge call that would've fouled the Bucks star out in the Celtics' 119-112 loss on Friday.
Smart addressed the call and told reporters afterwards the officials provided him with an "excuse."
"Wish we got a better one," Smart said of the explanation he got on the call. "The excuse was I was late on drawing the charge. Quite frankly, I think we all know what that was about. It was Giannis' sixth foul. (Referees) didn't want to get him out. Let's just call that spade a spade."
The controversial call happened at the 1-minute, 28-second mark of the fourth quarter as the game was tied at 107. Instead of Antetokounmpo going to the bench for the remainder of the game. Shortly afterwards, the Bucks stole the game's momentum and quickly took a 113-107 lead off a Khris Middleton three-pointer.
“I think we all know what that was about… Giannis has 6 fouls. They don’t want to get him out.”
Marcus Smart discusses his foul at the end of the 4th quarter. #Celticspic.twitter.com/57LZysT7oJ
Referee James Capers told a pool reporter after the game that Antetokounmpo was in a normal defensive stance and touched the belt line of Daniel Theis.
Antetokounmpo, who finished with 36 points and 15 rebounds, said he spoke with Smart after the game and respected the Celtics star's opinion.
Celtics defender Marcus Smart makes life difficult for Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. (Photo: Ashley Landis, Pool photo via USA TODAY Sports)
"I think he's a great player," he said. "One thing I respect about him is that he's the first guy on the floor, he trusts his teammates, he plays hard, he guards the best player. So, that's what I told him at the end of the game. I said, 'I respect you, I respect you play hard and I just play hard.' There's nothing more to that. I'm not coming at you, that's not my personality. I just try to stay focused, try to help my team win, and I know that he's going to try to talk all the time and get me out of my game, and I respect that he's doing that because he's trying to get me out of my game. I understand. When I sit down and I calm down, I look back and I understand what he's trying to do."
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