The Blazers and Celtics met on Sunday in one of the more important games of the final two weeks of the season, as both teams came in desperate to avoid the 7-seed and the play-in tournament. Boston entered the game tied with the Heat (and currently holding the tiebreaker with Miami) and just a half-game back of the Hawks for fifth in the East, while Portland is a game behind the Lakers and Mavs who are tied in fifth and sixth in the West.
It was a predictably competitive and close game, as each team looked the part of a team with something to play for, but much of the conversation late was about an officiating decision involving Jusuf Nurkić and Marcus Smart. Nurkić was initially called for an offensive foul for a moving screen on Smart that sent both men crashing to the court, with Nurkić holding his groin area, which triggered a review to look into whether Smart had committed an illegal act.
After a lengthy look at the play, the referees determined it was a moving screen, as Nurkić made contact first but that Smart’s low blow on Nurkić was deliberate and the Celtics star was ejected from the game for a technical foul.
Scal finally caught on pic.twitter.com/F9vRucL6Lg
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) May 3, 2021
It was a difficult play to adjudicate, as Smart’s arm certainly extends out and hits Nurkić in a very sensitive area, but he also is getting fouled on the play and is turning around so it had to be quite the reaction from Smart to purposefully make that move. The referees determined it deliberate and as such Damian Lillard got a technical free throw to extend the Portland lead to four before Boston got the ball for the offensive foul. The Celtics fell apart from there, only mustering two points in the final two minutes as Portland opened up what became a 10-point margin.
Making matters even worse for Boston was seeing Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum collide late, with Brown being helped to the locker room for a lower right leg injury, adding even more concern following a tough loss in their playoff chase.