Marcus Smart says NBA made sure Giannis Antetokounmpo wouldn't foul out vs. Celtics

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(Getty Images)

The Bucks had their MVP on the floor in crunch time Friday night against the Celtics. One Celtics player said the referees wanted it that way and acted accordingly.

Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo was playing with five fouls when he jumped into Boston's Marcus Smart in the lane in the fourth quarter. Antetokounmpo was first called for a charge that would have sent him the bench, only for the call to be changed to a block and an and-one on video review.

The three-point play gave Milwaukee a three-point lead, and the East's top team went on to win its Florida bubble opener.

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Smart wasn't buying the reason for the overturn.

"The excuse was I was late on the charge," Smart said. "They said the (NBA) Replay Center said I was late and it was a block. Quite frankly, I think we all know what that was about: Giannis had six fouls and they didn't want to get him out. Just call that spade a spade and that's just what it is."

A minute before that review, Antetokounmpo was spared a DQ after appearing to strike Daniel Theis below the belt. The officials ruled after a review that he didn't commit a hostile act.

Officiating crew chief James Capers told a pool reporter that the contact was incidental and thus not a foul. He also said video showed Antetokounmpo's hand touched Theis on the belt line, not in the groin.

It must be noted that one of Antetokounmpo's called fouls was this offensive foul that Smart sold earlier in the game.

But Smart and the Celtics, obviously, aren't going to cop to that. They just think Giannis got premeditated preferential treatment from the league when it mattered.

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