Here it is, folks. The most ridiculous call so far of the 2015 NBA Playoffs.
It seemed like an unassuming Game 3 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. Many expected LeBron James and the Cavs (heading in with a 2-0 series lead) to continue to steamroll the Hawks and net another victory, which they eventually did, 114-111 in overtime.
Except it didn't really start out that way.
James had the worst start of his career, going 0 for 10 shots, with his first points not coming until well into the second quarter. And the Hawks looked very, very strong.
But as the second quarter was about to close out, Cleveland's Matthew Dellavedova got tangled with Atlanta's DeMarre Carroll and Al Horford.
Here's what happened next:
After a few minutes of review, the refs ultimately gave Horford a Flagrant 2, which meant an automatic ejection from the game.
People were not happy about it. Marv Albert called it "the most controversial call of the entire playoffs."
He missed and didn't hit him hard enough for Flagrant2... That's all. Someone go to clip your knees your gotta react. Horford let up
— Baron Davis (@Baron_Davis) May 25, 2015
This is totally wrong. Al Horford did not deserve to be EJECTED via a flagrant 2 on that play. That's just flat-out wrong. Totally unfair.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) May 25, 2015
"He should've got a flagrant 1 in that situation" -Chuck on the Horford call.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 25, 2015
Tossing Horford is an absolute travesty. One of the all time worst decisions in NBA playoff history. I take it back. The worst!!
— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) May 25, 2015
Here’s the thing: If you’re giving the tech, then you understand the reason Horford did it, which should change flagrant degree, no?
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) May 25, 2015
Flagrant 2 on Horford is the worst single call of the playoffs.
— Seth Partnow (@SethPartnow) May 25, 2015
Wow, that is absurd.
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) May 25, 2015
Perhaps even more perplexing is that the officials also decided to hand Dellavedova a technical, the reason for which still unclear.
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) May 25, 2015
If Dellavedova's technical came for his involvement in his dust up with Horver, it further serves to call into question whether Big Al should've gotten a Flagrant 2, or just a Flagrant 1.
What makes the situation even more complicated is Dellavedova's recent playoff performances, which may have given Horford more reason to retaliate than just suspecting Dellavedova of trying to intentionally go after his knees.
Let's backtrack, shall we?
You may notice Atlanta's sharpshooter Kyle Korver has been notably absent for both Game 3 and 4 of the series after a collision in Game 2 ended his season. A collision with Dellavedova. A collision with Dellavedova that some again called into question the Cavs player's intentions and whether he purposely landed on Korver's ankle while diving for a loose ball.
During the previous series against the Chicago Bulls, Dellavedova also found himself in an altercation with Chicago's Taj Gibson in Game 5. Gibson was (rightfully) ejected after kicking Dellavedova. However, not totally innocent, review of tape showed the Cavs player trying to lock Gibson's ankle between his legs.
So, yeah. When asked by TNT's Rachel Nichols during Sunday's game about his player's behavior, Cavs coach David Blatt had this to say:
"There is a pattern of behavior. He plays very hard, he plays very tough, but very cleanly."
The ejection seemed to suck the air out of the Hawks' momentum and LeBron got hot. And yet, without Korver and Horford, the Hawks kept fighting back, ultimately bringing the game into overtime.
But James was unstoppable and found his rhythm, ultimately putting up 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists -- and net his twelfth playoff triple-double.
Horford addressed the interaction after the game, telling reporters that, "I made a poor decision there. I wish I could've taken it back."
The Atlanta player said he told referees that he thought Dellavedova went after his legs.
"I did think he went at me, but I should've handled it better," Horford added, noting Dellavedova has a "track record" and "can be careless."
"I don't think that it was malicious, but he's gotta learn," Horford said, adding that it's "not the first time [Dellavedova]'s been involved in things like this."
The series continues in Cleveland with Game 4 on Tuesday.
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