Celtics

Could the Smart-Curry encounter from March bleed into the Finals?

Celtics

Marcus Smart can expect to hear plenty of boos at Chase Center when the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors face off in the NBA Finals.

The C's guard became public enemy No. 1 in the Bay Area after a controversial collision with Warriors star Stephen Curry in March. Smart, known for his scrappy style of play, dove for a loose ball and injured Curry's left foot in the process.

Golden State also took exception to Smart "kicking" Klay Thompson under the basket shortly after the Curry incident, leading to a flagrant foul. You can watch both plays below.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was livid with Smart, who he coached with USA Basketball. The two had a tense exchange after Curry headed to the locker room.

Kerr addressed his interaction with Smart after the game.

"I thought it was a dangerous play," Kerr said following the 110-88 Celtics win. "I thought Marcus dove into Steph, and that's what I was upset about.

"A lot of respect for Marcus. He's a hell of a player, a gamer, a competitor. I coached him in the World Cup a few summers ago. We talked after the game and we're good. But I thought it was a dangerous play."

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Smart brushed off the minor altercation and respected Kerr's reaction to the play.

"He’s doing what any coach, any player, any person would do, and that’s backing up his guys," Smart said. "We talked it out. But at the end of that conversation he told me, 'You’re one of the guys that I wish I had on my team.'

 

"Me and Steve have that relationship with USA Basketball, so he knows I’m never trying to hurt anybody. He knows that since I’ve got in this league, I’ve been sacrificing my body for the better of my team and my teammates. So I get it."

Marcus Smart on Steve Kerr: "He was backing up his guy."

Despite Smart and Kerr letting bygones be bygones, the collision with Curry sparked a nationwide debate about whether or not it was a dirty play. Warriors fans only grew angrier with Smart when it was revealed Curry would miss the remainder of the regular season with a sprained ligament in his foot.

Curry took the high road when asked about the incident, stating there was no intent by Smart to injure.

"He didn't try to hurt me," the two-time NBA MVP said. "There's a certain way that he plays that I don't think many people would have made the play that he did, but I don't think it was malicious or dirty or trying to hurt me. It was kind of just a tough situation.

"Like I said, just the way that he plays. There's a conversation around should he or shouldn't he have, but it wasn't like he looked at me and was like, 'I'm trying to hurt that dude.' So, it's basketball."

The Warriors have a Smart-like player of their own in Draymond Green. Kerr even called Smart "the guard version" of Green ahead of the Finals.

Knowing it would be hypocritical to call out Smart, Green declined to classify the play as "dirty."

"I can't call that a dirty play," Green said. "The ball is on the floor. At every level of basketball, we're taught to dive on the floor and go after the ball, and that's what Marcus did, so I can't call it a dirty play."

While Golden State appears to have put the Curry controversy in the rearview mirror, don't be surprised if tensions boil over into the Finals. That especially goes for when Smart and the C's have to play in front of the rowdy Chase Center crowd. If there's another borderline play, particularly involving Smart, this series could get chippy in a hurry.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is set for 9 p.m. ET Thursday in San Francisco. Coverage begins right here on NBC Sports Boston with Celtics Pregame Live at 8 p.m. ET.