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CHARLOTTE — Celtics guard Marcus Smart, already fuming at a barrage of whistles against him, barked at Brad Stevens in the win over the Hornets on Thursday night because he thought his coach wasn’t going to bat for him with the officials, but the two quickly moved past the flareup.
Smart picked up a pair of fouls — his fourth and fifth of the night — 11 seconds apart midway through the third quarter. As Stevens fetched a replacement from the bench, Smart could be seen venting in the coach’s direction while leaving the floor.
"I just was telling him, especially when everything is going that way, like, they're just picking and picking [on Smart], and it's like they're eyeing on me and it's like they are doing it on purpose, so I'm telling [Stevens] like, ‘At some point you have to step in and say something as a coach. But since you won't, I've got to.’
"I understand from Brad's standpoint but, at the same time, from the player's standpoint, you've got to step in.”
Smart went on to admonish the officiating while acknowledging he was likely going to be fined for his comments.
"I wish they would call the game the right way, you know?” said Smart. "A lot of calls that they called, I didn't understand where the fouls were. And it just seems like, whenever I get the ball and I'm on offense, I can't get a call.”
Smart was further enraged when Charlotte’s Miles Bridges pushed him to the ground while the two battled for a rebound early in the fourth quarter. Smart popped right back up and tried to confront Bridges but referee Leon Wood stepped in to prevent escalation.
Bridges was assessed a technical, but Smart wondered how it might have been different if he had been the shover.
"I told [the officials], I said, 'If it was me, y'all would probably throw me out the game and everything. So you clean it up, or I will. I allowed y'all, I gave y'all the time, y'all keep telling me to let us handle it, let us handle it, I'm coming to y'all first, but at some point as a player, as a man, you've got to protect yourself.’
"Nobody else is going to protect yourself, you've got to protect yourself. So if that means I've got to lose a little bit of money, then I've got to lose a bit.”
Smart and Bridges twice bumped into each other in a dead-ball situation later in the fourth before Stevens pulled Smart for the night.
Stevens said his bigger message to Smart was simply reinforcing how much this team needs him on the floor.
"We need Marcus and I’ve told him a number of times how much we need him,” said Stevens. "But this is the part about Marcus that I love, right? His fire, his competitiveness. If there’s a moment when he’s upset with us, that’s all part of it. We move on pretty quickly. We’ve been together for a long time. I’ve been yelled at before and that’s OK. I love him and I trust him.
"Again, we’ve been through a lot together so I just think it’s one of those things where, he knows how important he is to our team and, listen, he’s going to be the guy that — he gives a lot to our team. He does a lot of things that are really hard but don’t always get the attention by some. I think we do a good job in Boston of recognizing all that he does and certainly, our team and our staff recognize all he does.”
Smart seemed to smooth things over with Stevens on the bench during the third quarter.
"Me and Brad, that's our relationship. We've been in it six years, so we have those little moments, and it's over,” said Smart. “It's done with and we move on to the next one.”
Smart’s bigger issue by game’s end was the lack of calls his way from the game officials.
"They definitely treat me differently,” said Smart. "I mean, everybody sees it. But I'm not going to sit here and talk about it because talking about it is going to lose me money and the game is over, so I'll calm down. But I've just got to keep playing. Like I said, if they won't protect me, I will.”
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