Hawks upset over scrum that got Al Horford ejected, but Cavaliers' backup guard insists he did nothing wrong
POSTED: May 25, 2015 12:53 PM ET
Inside the NBA: Hustling or Dangerous Play?
Kenny Smith, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, and Ernie Johnson discuss Matthew Dellavedova's physicality during the postseason.
CLEVELAND — He hustles. He's reckless. But is Matthew Dellavedova dirty?
That's where the debate eventually settled, on that unanswered question in the aftermath of yet another bout of Dellavedova feistiness that played a disproportionate role in the outcome of a Cleveland Cavaliers' playoff game. As usual, in favor of the Cavs.
Dellavedova, the frenetic backup point guard who again started in place of All-Star Kyrie Irving (sore left knee), affected the outcome against Atlanta on Sunday in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals as surely as anything -- scoring, playmaking -- a healthy Irving might have done.
Inside the NBA: Al Horford Postgame
David Aldridge interviews Al Horford after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The second-year player from Australia was in the middle of another horizontal skirmish, either diving or falling or being pulled down -- depending on who was doing the telling -- into Hawks center Al Horford's legs late in the second quarter.
Horford had missed a 13-foot jump shot to start the play. By the time it was over, after he had fallen to the floor while delivering an intentional elbow to Dellavedova's shoulders and/or head, Horford had been assessed a flagrant-2 foul, banished to the visitors' locker room with the automatic ejection it carried.
"It's a physical game and I made a poor decision there," Horford said. "I wish I could have taken it back. But the thing that hurts me the most was that it wasn't out there to help my team and help our guys through this game."
Horford admitted his reaction was influenced by who it was getting aggressive near his legs and knees and the Game 2 play that injured Korver. Neither he nor Dellavedova was injured on the play.
Hey, man, you all do the math. Two plus two equals four, doesn't it? Al just did what he thought was necessary to protect our team and make a stand. And he got thrown out.
– Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll
"I did think he went at me," Horford said. "But I should have handled it better. I shouldn't have gotten caught up in that. It's definitely something I definitely learned from."
Atlanta had a one-point lead just before Horford got tossed. It lost by three in overtime. So it's reasonable to think that the 6-foot-10 veteran, who scored 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting in the 19 minutes he did play, might have made a difference. Instead, the Hawks are down 3-0 in the series, on the brink of elimination.
The range of characterizations for what transpired was vast. It was a bad break for the Hawks. A foolhardy response by Horford. An expert but helpful-to-the-Cavs ruling by the referees (Dellavedova got a technical foul but stuck around to score 17 points and hit four of nine 3-pointers). Another instance of the Aussie guard's high-energy, do-anything tactics that have a way of getting Down Under opponents' skin.
That was the beef from some of the Hawks, a lot of TV viewers and across the Twittersphere -- that this was no isolated incident but instead was the latest in a pattern of Dellavedova taking down or taking out key players for Cleveland's rivals.
Cavaliers On Game 3 Victory
David Blatt, LeBron James and Matthew Dellavedova address the media after Sunday's Game 3 victory.
The recent run of plays that have left opponents worse off began with Game 5 of the East semifinal against Chicago. Pushed to the floor by Bulls forward Taj Gibson, Dellavedova -- while face down -- locked his legs onto one of Gibson's legs. When the Chicago player kicked free, the kick was caught by the referees, the replays and an outraged Quicken Loans Arena crowd. Gibson was hit with a flagrant-2 and, with the Bulls already playing without big man Pau Gasol, ejected early in the fourth quarter from what became a two-point game in the final minutes.
On Friday, in Game 2 against Atlanta, Dellavedova dived for a loose ball and slammed into Hawks guard Kyle Korver's right leg. With both players grimacing from the collision, the Cavs guard rolled over, leaving Korver with a postseason-ending high-ankle sprain.
That led to Sunday's play, with at least one of Horford's teammates suggesting that their center retaliated in enough-is-enough fashion.
"Hey, man, you all do the math. Two plus two equals four, doesn't it?" said Atlanta forward DeMarre Carroll. "Al just did what he thought was necessary to protect our team and make a stand. And he got thrown out."
"Everybody understood we had to take a stand. We're out there to play basketball. We're out there to compete. But when we get to the sense of doing things unnecessary, that's when you have the play you seen."
Of Dellavedova, Carroll said: "I think he's just a competitor, man. And sometimes, when you compete so hard, you can take it overboard. There's got to be a fine line between competing or being crazy.
"I play hard myself. And I understand, sometimes you go to do little things to get under people's skin. But [nothing] crazy. I hope he takes a look at the film and sees, man, there's a way to play hard but not to play crazy."
Hawks React To Game 3 Loss
Mike Budenholzer, Shelvin Mack and Kent Bazemore talk to the media after Sunday's Game 3 loss.
The NBA permitted a pool reporter to ask crew chief Ken Mauer about the play, a relatively rare move. Mauer said Horford committed a flagrant-2 foul because of the contact to Dellavedova's head and shoulders, while the Cavs guard merited his technical foul for his contact with Horford's knees. The three referees and a fourth, an alternate in the officials' locker room connected via headset, were unanimous in the ruling, a league source said.
Dellavedova and LeBron James were unanimous, meanwhile, that the Cleveland guard did nothing wrong.
"I would obviously disagree [with Horford]," Dellavedova said. "I was boxing him out and you can see from the baseline view that he's pulling my left arm down."
Said James: "There's no difference between what Delly did to Kyle Korver last game and 18 guys diving on the floor late in the game tonight. It was like six or seven guys diving on the floor for that loose ball. ... Just no one got hurt.
"We don't never want to play with the integrity of the game and try to get people hurt. That's not what it's about because we all want brotherhood at the end of the day, NBA family. But I play to win the game and you play aggressively."
Horford stopped short of calling Dellavedova dirty. Elton Brand, the elder statesman of the Atlanta locker room, said he gives the Cleveland player the benefit of the doubt. But Brand, wrapping up his 16th NBA season, also said he's never seen one opposing player involved in such a pattern of repeated, reckless maneuvers.
The newest member of the NBA's all-irritant team stuck to the Hawks series in giving his side. Of the Korver play, Dellavedova said: "I dived on the floor. If I stay on my belly, it's going to be a jump ball. So I [rolled to] protect the ball and kick it out to a teammate."
And: "The other one, I'm boxing him out. He's pulling my left arm. I'm trying to stay up and he's just pulling me down. I mean, the tape's there."
It's possible that Dellavedova or Horford could face further discipline from the NBA when the play is reviewed. But James tried to keep it in perspective.
"In Game 2, when [Pero] Antic two-hand shoves me out of the air -- the fact that I'm still playing, we don't talk about it. But he two-hand shoves me in the air," the Cleveland star said. "So what are we really talking about? Are we going to talk about us trying to win basketball games or about those guys trying to figure out a way that Matthew Dellavedova is this type of ... This guy, he works his tail off every single day. He beats the odds and he comes to play as hard as he can.
"If they're focused on Delly, then they're focused on the wrong thing."
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