Jeff Van Gundy accused Smart of flopping when he got elbowed right in the jaw


Marcus Smart isn’t past putting on some on-court theatrics to goad officials into making certain calls. But on Sunday, he legitimately got elbowed in the face by Giannis Antetokounmpo in the third quarter.

Jeff Van Gundy thought he was faking.

With 5:11 left in the period, Antetokounmpo was wrestling with Smart inside and tossed an elbow on his way towards the hoop. Smart went to the floor and Antetokounmpo was whistled for a charge, which would’ve been his third foul. Given his importance, and the fact that Milwaukee was trailing 68-55 at the time, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer challenged the call.

The referees reversed it, and Van Gundy was in full agreement. “There’s no foul. He’s exaggerating the contact, which he does,” Van Gundy said about Smart. “I think that’s a good call and reversal.”

While there were some examples of Smart flopping in the series — he flew backwards in Game 6 when Giannis was jostling with him for positioning — that wasn’t one of them. Antetokounmpo clearly hit Smart in the face. Maybe it wasn’t an offensive foul, but it wasn’t an exaggeration of contact, either.

Smart was terrific Sunday, going 6-of-7 from the free throw line and playing tenacious defense. His decision to immediately go into his shooting motion when he corralled a loose ball at half court with 0.9 seconds left in the first half was downright brilliant. Antetokounmpo fouled Smart, who made all three of his free throws.

It was quite a reversal from Game 3, when Smart was fouled while shooting at the end of regulation, and the referees didn’t call it.

There is a lot of subtle strategy and execution that must happen for a team to win an excruciating seven-game playoff series. Smart is not a perfect player, but he’s a huge part of the Celtics’ recipe.

Maybe in the Eastern Conference Finals he’ll receive more rope from the broadcast table.