It certainly wasn’t intentional, but the Clippers suffered a huge blow when Blake Griffin nailed Taj Gibson with an overhead forearm in the third quarter, resulting in a flagrant 2 ejection.
Griffin immediately held onto Gibson upon point of impact to make sure he was OK, but in this new NBA, plays like that will be reviewed and officials will err on the side of caution as opposed to intent. Griffin was out of position on a pump fake and tried to swipe the ball from behind Gibson’s head before Gibson went up for a shot.
This wasn’t a Gibson-Matthew Dellavedova situation, where Gibson was ejected during a crucial point of the Bulls-Cavs playoff series when the two got tangled up and Gibson tried to free himself.
“I’ve known Blake for a long time. Great guy,” Gibson said. “Even after he got ejected, he made sure I was OK. It’s no big thing. It’s just basketball, but that’s how our league is now and you have to respect the referee.”
With the league taking more consideration to wind up and impact as opposed to intent, the officials had just cause in ejecting Griffin, who did some serious damage to the Bulls in 24 minutes with 18 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
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“I couldn’t see the play,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “It looked bad. If so, he would get the flagrant 2. He was rebounding, playing physical and tough. He wound up to knock the ball, but if you miss and hit the player, you can get the flagrant 2. You have to protect the player.”
Griffin was upset with the ruling but left the floor peacefully, checking on Gibson one final time.
“He got me in the air, I tried to swat the ball,” Griffin said. “Obviously I missed. It was disappointing on their ruling because I didn’t want to leave the game. I wasn’t trying to hit him in the face. There was no intent to hit him, only the ball.”
In Griffin’s stead, though, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson stepped up and hit shots to tie the game with seven minutes left. Smith hit back-to-back triples, scoring eight points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.
“I didn’t see the replay until after the game,” Gibson said. “I was still trying to get my senses back because it was a tough hit.”