It took all of one game for the Washington Wizards’ first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks to turn physical -- Hawks forward Paul Millsap described it as “MMA,” while Wizards forward Markieff Morris suggested the Wizards could respond with “double MMA.”
While that series was ultimately decided on the court instead of in the octagon, one player the Wizards relied upon was second-year reserve forward Kelly Oubre. At the time, Morris said Washington needed Oubre to be “wild,” and Oubre explained: “I’m a wild player. I’m a wild guy. I just bring the energy, I think that’s what he’s trying to get at. I just bring the energy and make sure I get the team amped up.”
Thursday night during Game 3 of the Wizards’ Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Celtics, Oubre got his team amped up by doing something he’d never done before in his basketball career: He got ejected from a game. Thursday's early departure came after Olynyk was called for an offensive foul after setting a screen on Oubre that knocked Oubre to the court. Oubre hopped to his feet and intentionally plowed into Celtics center Kelly Olynyk, a collision that sent Olynyk flying and sent Oubre to the locker room a few quarters early.
According to Wizards guard Brandon Jennings, Oubre’s action served a purpose. “It definitely sent a message to them,” said Jennings. “I think a lot of it was flop, though -- [Olynyk] really did flop it. Buy Kelly is a big part of our success, with his size, being able to guard [Boston guard] Isaiah [Thomas], being able to knock down threes, his aggressiveness. So it’s probably something he is going to learn from, just that he’s so valuable to our team because he makes such a difference.”
“I’m not going out there on the court and looking to maliciously hurt anybody."
According to Oubre, it was a unique confluence of circumstances that led to his first career ejection. “It was just reccurring events,” said Oubre. “I’ve been hit in the head multiple times by the same person. I’ve confronted him about it. The last time, I fell, I felt pain in my head in and my jaw, and I got up and I ran to him and I bumped him, and that’s all that happened ... I’m pretty mindful, I take my inner peace very seriously. So it’s something that’s very rare, it would only happen in a situation like that.”
In the moments immediately following the incident, Oubre received counsel from several teammates. “[Bradley Beal] told me, ‘You’re our best defender, we don’t need you to go out like that. But take it and handle your business, and we’re gonna hold it down for you.’”
Morris offered Oubre some advice as well: “I told him they were going to throw him out so he might as well leave now.”
Once he reached the locker room, Oubre received a surprise from a familiar face: Brandon Jennings, who was ejected a few quarters later following a confrontation with Boston’s Terry Rozier. “Third quarter, I took a shower, and I came out of the shower and [Jennings] was just sitting there in his locker. I was like, ‘Oh you too?’” Ourbre recalled with a laugh. “It was one of those moments, one of those bro moments. We don’t have any bad blood with anybody, we just want to win.”
And all extraneous activity aside, as far as the Wizards are concerned the most important result from Game 3 was the 116-89 win, which cut Boston’s series lead to 2-1. While Oubre and the Wizards wait to see if there will be any additional punishment levied by the league office, they know an epic task awaits them in Sunday’s Game 4 (6:30 p.m. ET, TNT). Win and they even the series. Lose and Boston returns home for Game 5 holding a 3-1 lead.
“I’m not going out there on the court and looking to maliciously hurt anybody,” said Oubre. “What happened last night is definitely in the past. We’re focused on basketball.”
“We have very talented teams on both ends that are trying to win this series,” said Washington coach Scott Brooks. “It’s going to take great effort from both teams to advance. We’re still behind one game. We’ve got to focus on taking care of Game 4, and that’s what we’re working on.”
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