Did Marcus Smart cross the line Wednesday night, or was he just trying to make a hustle play?
In the second quarter of the Boston Celtics' matchup with the Golden State Warriors at the Chase Center, Smart dove for a loose ball right in front of Stephen Curry, whose left leg got caught awkwardly under Smart's body.
Curry exited the game with a left ankle injury after the play and needed an MRI to determine the severity of his injury. Warriors coach Steve Kerr clearly took issue with Smart's play and called him it out for it on the court.
"I thought it was a dangerous play," Kerr said after the game, a 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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Warriors star Draymond Green had a different take on the incident, however. Like Smart, Green makes a living on hustle plays while often toeing the line between clean and dirty. But Green believes Smart didn't do anything wrong by diving for that loose ball.
"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."
Green added that Smart's dive was "probably unnecessary," but his point is well-taken: Smart saw a ball on the floor and went after it, just as Green would have done in the same situation.
Smart insisted after the game he had no intent to injure Curry while understanding why Kerr called him out.
"He’s doing what any coach, any player, any person would do, and that’s backing up his guys," Smart said of Kerr. " ... 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."
Kerr was right to be angry with Smart in the moment for injuring his superstar player. And Smart's karate kick on Klay Thompson later in that same sequence definitely was uncalled for. But it's also true that Smart was simply trying to make a hustle play instead of going out of his way to injure Curry.