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BOSTON — As the Boston Celtics took control of the NBA Finals with a 2-1 series lead after defeating the Golden State Warriors 116-100 in Game 3 on Wednesday, the discussion in the aftermath centered on Celtics center Al Horford’s role in injuring Warriors star Stephen Curry’s left foot late in the fourth quarter.
The veteran big man was criticized for diving on Curry’s leg while chasing a loose ball. Curry yelled in pain, according to teammate Draymond Green. The two-time MVP was subbed out for the remainder of the game, though coach Steve Kerr said it was not related to the injury.
Curry walked with a noticeable limp leaving the arena, and Kerr said the team would know more about the extent of the injury Thursday.
Golden State players and Kerr stopped short of rebuking Horford, but fans on social media already were labeling it a “dirty play.”
Celtics defensive specialist Marcus Smart defended his teammate from the social media reaction.
“It’s the Finals. You’ve got guys diving all over the place. Their guys are diving into us. We don’t say nothing,” Smart told Yahoo Sports. “We’re getting hurt as well, but we continue to play. Nothing is intentional. It’s the Finals. We’re trying to win just like them. First one to the ball, as we all know, wins. They can complain all they want. It is what it is. There’s nothing dirty about it. It’s fair game. It’s fair basketball. It’s Finals basketball. … Nobody is out here trying to hurt anybody.”
Horford told Yahoo Sports it was an unfortunate situation.
“It has nothing to do with Steph,” Horford told Yahoo Sports. “I saw the ball and tried to make a play. We’re trying to win a game. I don’t think there’s any [controversy] there.”
Green picked up his sixth foul pushing Horford off of Curry.
“I saw him getting dove on and that was about that. So I picked up my foul pushing off him because he’s screaming at the bottom of the pile,” Green said during his postgame media address. “It is what it is. I’ll take the foul. I’m going to get him off his legs, though. It’s all good.”
Curry said after the game he felt the injury was similar to the foot sprain he sustained in March, also against the Celtics. Smart dove for a ball in that game. Curry missed the remainder of the regular season.
He was asked Wednesday if he thought Horford’s play was reckless.
“I haven’t seen the play, so I don’t know if it could have been avoided or not,” he responded during his postgame address. “I was in that same situation with Marcus back in The Bay, and you just want to get your foot out of there. That’s all I was trying to do at that point knowing the position I was in. For what I feel like, it’s not as bad. So hopefully it responds well over the next two days.”
Even though Curry slightly hobbled to the bus, he said he anticipates being in uniform for Game 4 on Friday.
“I don’t feel like I’ll miss a game,” Curry said. “So, I’ll take advantage of the next 48 hours and get ready.”