BOSTON — Welcome back to 1980s basketball. The Hawks and Boston Celtics went a bit old school in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Friday night. Bodies hit the floor. There were double-technical fouls and flagrant fouls and reviews of several other calls. In the end, the Hawks overcame a 19-point second-half deficit to take a lead, only to fade and lose 111-103. Here’s a link to the game column.
Now, what follows is NOT the reason the Hawks lost, trimming their series lead to 2-1. Isaiah Thomas going off for a career-high 42 points had more to do with that. But the story line from now until Game 4 on Sunday will be the potential fallout from a first-quarter incident when Thomas swung his arm around and slapped Hawks guard Dennis Schroder in the face. Thomas wasn’t called for a foul, but the two players had to be separated later in the quarter and were called fro technicals.
Here’s the play:
Schroder was upset after the game and said he complained to official Zach Zarba, telling the Journal-Constitution: “I’m not going to let nobody slap me in my face. I told him that. If you want to play like that, we’ll play like that. I was mad.”
When asked if Zarba said anything in response, Schroder said, “He apologized at halftime. He said he didn’t see it. But it’s too late then.”
Schroder also Tweeted a screen shot of Thomas hitting him with the comment: “Wow. They’re calling a flagrant foul on me! Where I try to protect myself!!! But Isaiah Thomas can hit me in my face.”
He quickly deleted the Tweet but it lives in screen grabs:
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said he expects the NBA to review the play. The question is whether the league believes the incident rises to the level of a “flagrant 1” foul (which would not lead to a suspension) or a “flagrant 2” (which could).
Former NBA vice president Stu Jackson, whose former job entailed disciplining players, believes a suspension is coming:
When asked about the NBA’s possible review of the play, Thomas said he was not concerned, denied he hit Schroder intentionally, then started to go in the other direction with his comments.
Quote: “I didn’t mean to hit him. He got mad and he was talking. But it’s playoff basketball. That’s what it’s about. I’m not going to back down from anybody and he knows that.”
Hawks center Al Horford was asked about the incident and, referencing the officials, saying, “I feel like they look the other way on that kind of stuff. Those kind of issues need to be addressed in-game. I mean after the game, it’s too late.”
When told the official said he didn’t see the play, Horford responded, “Of course.”
Hawks guard Kyle Korver said, “I know Bud read us a really long (league) memo before the playoffs started about what would happen if we threw a punch. So I guess we’ll see what happens.”
So my guess is one of two things are going to happen now: Either Thomas gets suspended — which would amount to the league taking Boston’s best player off the court — or this series is about to get get a whole lot more physical.
There’s nothing wrong with that. At least now the Hawks realize they’re in a series.
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