Marcus Smart criticized the referees after the Celtics’ 108-87 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.
The sixth-year guard took umbrage with multiple calls, noting that he wishes they “would call the game right way.”
“A lot of calls that they called, I didn’t understand where the fouls were,” Smart told reporters. “And it just seems like whenever I get the ball and I’m on offense, I can’t get a call.”
Midway through the third quarter, Smart picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in a span of 11 seconds. On one end, the refs said he fouled Devonte’ Graham while Graham was shooting. On the other, they hit him with an offensive foul.
Smart was visibly upset, and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens removed him from the game. He discussed the decision to do so with Stevens when he came out, and he reportedly continued to share his opinion after that.
“I just was telling him, you know, especially when everything is going that way, like, they’re just picking and picking, and it’s like they’re eyeing on me and it’s like they are doing it on purpose,” Smart told reporters. “So I’m telling them like, ‘At some point you have to step in and say something as a coach. But since you won’t, I’ve got to.”
Smart said he understands Stevens’ decision not to intervene or berate the officials, but he also believes it was necessary for someone to say something given the circumstances.
He said subbing a player out allows that angst to build up. Rather than taking a break, he said he wanted to “thug it out” and keep playing, but he also grasps why Stevens did what he did.
Stevens subbed Smart back in to start the fourth. They reportedly appeared to make amends in a huddle, and Smart said afterward they’re fine despite the tiff.
“Me and Brad, that’s our relationship,” Smart said. “We’ve been in it six years, so we have those little moments, and it’s over and over. It’s done with, and we move on to the next one.”
But Smart’s night wasn’t finished quite yet. In the fourth quarter, Smart took umbrage with Miles Bridges after the Hornets forward appeared to shove him to the ground.
Smart stood up quickly and approached Bridges, but a referee scooted over and Robert Williams impeded his progress. Afterward, Smart told reporters he believes that if he had done what Bridges did, the officials would have probably ejected him.
He made it clear he deemed it necessary to call the officials out, and he has no regrets about doing so.
“Nobody else is going to protect yourself,” he said. “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, who finished with six points, five assists, and two steals, and a plus-10, in 22 minutes, has been a catalyst as the Celtics have started the season 6-1. Stevens knows the Celtics need Smart, and he understands his passion helps make him who he is.
“This is the part about Marcus that I love, right?” Stevens told reporters. “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 a long time. I’ve been yelled at before, and that’s OK. I love him and I trust him. And he’ll get every opportunity.”