Smart said the referees gave him an “excuse” in explaining their decision to overturn a charge call against reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the closing minutes of Boston’s 119-112 loss to Milwaukee, a call that would have caused Antetokounmpo to foul out of the game.
“Wish we got a better one,” Smart said when asked if he’d received an explanation for 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. [The refs] didn’t want to get him out. Let’s just call that spade a spade.”
The play, which came at the 1-minute, 28-second mark of the fourth quarter, would have given the ball back to the Celtics with the score tied at 107. It also would have sent Antetokounmpo to the bench for the rest of the game. Instead, he was given a basket when the call was changed to a block — a basket that came after Antetokounmpo made a dribble move to fake out Jayson Tatum, then did a Eurostep to get into the lane and to the basket.
After Antetokounmpo made the free throw, Jaylen Brown missed a 3-pointer on Boston’s ensuing possession and Khris Middleton answered with a made 3 of his own, giving Milwaukee a 113-107 lead it wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
Antetokounmpo said he felt Smart was moving on the play.
“First of all, that’s his opinion,” Antetokounmpo said of Smart afterward. “But at the end of the day, when I had the conversation with him, I respect him as a player.”