Steve Kerr didn’t appreciate a pair of plays by Marcus Smart in the first half of Thursday’s game between the Celtics and Warriors, and he made sure his objections were heard.
Both plays happened within seconds of each other. On the first, Smart dove for a loose ball and crashed into Steph Curry, accidentally rolling up Curry’s leg. Curry fell to the ground wincing, and when he got to his feet, he limped up the court behind the play.
Smart, meanwhile, hopped up and pursued the loose ball up the floor. Klay Thompson pump-faked and Smart leapt into the air. As he flew by Thompson, he kicked at the ball.
The Warriors staff was upset with both of these Marcus Smart plays. First one was a roll up of Steph Curry's leg that has him currently in the locker room, second ruled a flagrant on Klay Thompson. Kerr was telling refs to review both plays, mimicking a leg chop to officials. pic.twitter.com/6edSJxQszv— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) March 17, 2022
Smart was whistled for a foul, which was upgraded to a flagrant one. Curry left the game and did not return.
On Thursday, The Athletic reported that Curry is out indefinitely with a sprained ligament in his foot, but that X-rays came back negative.
Kerr was livid after the second foul, yelling across the court at Smart who yelled back. Celtics teammates and head coach Ime Udoka all held Smart back from approaching Kerr and engaging. Later, when things had cooled down briefly, Kerr lectured Smart on the sideline as Smart made his case as well.
“You can’t do that, Marcus,” Kerr appeared to be saying.
“I thought it was a dangerous play,” Kerr said after the game. “I thought Marcus dove into Steph’s knee and that’s what I’m upset about. A lot of respect for Marcus, he’s a hell of a player. I coached him in the World Cup a few summers ago. We talked after the game, we’re good. But I thought it was a dangerous play.”
The Warriors have had their share of injuries in recent seasons — Klay Thompson missed two seasons, and Draymond Green recently returned from a 28-game absence.
After the game, Smart and Kerr talked again — this time on friendlier terms. The two have a prior relationship through Team USA basketball, and Smart said they were “calmer, definitely calmer” when they met postgame.
“He’s doing what any coach, any player, any person would do and that’s backing up his guys,” Smart said. “He felt at the time a way, and 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.’ …
“I get it. I understand. I hate to see it happen to anybody, especially playing and doing your job. I hate to see any injury, so I hope Steph’s alright.”
Regarding the play with Thompson, Smart said he didn’t try to make a play on the ball as he flew by.
“He gave me a nice pump fake and I tried to stop myself in the air, which didn’t work out too well for me,” Smart said. “He got me up in the air and he did a great job and my leg happened to get caught while he was going up and that was it.
“I wasn’t trying to kick anybody. I wasn’t trying to block no shot with my foot. Literally, he made a great play.”
Smart added that he is “really down” about Curry’s injury.
Both Udoka and Jaylen Brown said they felt Smart’s play on Curry was clearly an accident.
“That’s just what Smart does,” Brown said. “First to the floor, you know what I mean? It’s basketball.”
The Celtics put together a comfortable 110-88 victory. Their showdown on Wednesday was the start of a four-game road trip as the schedule gets thornier down the stretch.
Marcus Smart finished with 20 points, four rebounds, and eight assists.