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The Boston Celtics find themselves in a 2-1 series hole following their 103-101 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday afternoon.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka called out the officiating after the game, specifically taking issue with a call that in the closing moments of the game.
Trailing 103-100 in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, Celtics guard Marcus Smart appeared to be gathering himself for a three-pointer when he was hit in the arm by Bucks guard Jrue Holiday.
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The refs called a foul on the potential tying 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds remaining. But because the officials called the foul on the floor instead of a three-shot foul, Smart got two free-throw attempts, instead of three.
“It was a foul. It was a foul,” Udoka told reporters after the game. “He caught the ball, he’s turning into a shot, both feet set. You can’t say that’s a sweep like that, going into a shot. So, poor call, poor no-call … I saw it in person, but also on the film that I just went and looked at. It’s a shot, he was curling into a shot, he was getting fouled on the way up. Bad missed call.”
Smart made the first free throw and missed the second intentionally to give his team a shot for a three-point play, but he and the other Celtics players were unable to tip the ball in. Al Horford got his own rebound and banked it in, but his final shot came just after the buzzer sounded.
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Smart also questioned the call on his potential tying 3-pointer. He said it didn’t make sense that he would try a rip-through move from behind the arc knowing the Celtics needed three points to tie the game.
“You need three [points] with 4.6 seconds, they know we need three,” Smart said. “We know they’re gonna foul. It’s not like he got me when it was down low. I was already in my shooting motion. I thought it was three free throws. They said it wasn’t, deal with it.”
Holiday, who scored 25 points for the Bucks, disagreed.
“Honestly, it looked like he was still facing the sideline,” Holiday said. “That’s not a shooting motion. He wasn’t facing the rim.”
The Bucks were led in Game 3 by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 42 points on 16-30 shooting. It was a rebound performance for Antetokounmpo. In Game 2, he scored just five points in the first half and finished with 28 points.
“There’s going to be struggles, but at the end of the day, if you keep with it and you stay with it and you stay on course, you’re going to succeed,” Antetokounmpo said. “If you don’t stay on course, you’re not going to succeed. It’s as simple as that.”
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Horford had 22 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists.
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The best-of-7 series continues Monday night in Milwaukee.
The Associated Press contributed to this report