Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different story.
The Cleveland Cavaliers feign ignorance, that their scrappy backup point guard would never do anything to provoke the actions of one Taj Gibson in an altercation that resulted in Gibson’s ejection.
Gibson swears Dellavedova locked his foot when the two got tangled after Aaron Brooks scored on a layup, and replays appear to support that. When Gibson tried to untangle his foot from Dellavedova’s leg grip, he said Dellavedova tried to keep it locked, so he applied more force and it appeared Gibson kicked Dellavedova in the backside.
Tempers were already flaring, so players from both teams convened under the basket and officials had to break things up before it escalated. Gibson was ejected with a flagrant-2 foul and Dellavedova, who appeared to initiate the confrontation, didn’t receive a technical foul for his actions.
“Taj kicked Matthew Dellavedova,” Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson said. “He made a decision to do what he had to do. It’s in the hands of the league and whatnot, but as long as Delly’s all right we’re not going to let guys come around here and hit us or kick us.”
Thompson, J.R. Smith and LeBron James all took Dellavedova’s side of things of course, and Dellavedova, an irritant if there ever was one, acted as if he didn’t know what was going on in the play.
“I was trying to box (Gibson) out, and he just pushed me in the back and then we got tangled up,” Dellavedova said. “I was just trying to get up, and it was a bit of a push and shove.”
It cost the Bulls dearly, even after they made a comeback to make a game of things late, being without one of their best rebounders when the Cavaliers sealed the win with an offensive rebound with 19 seconds remaining.
“I didn't kick (Dellavedova) at all. He just leg locked me,” Gibson said. “It got chippy at the end of course. They didn't call a foul. ... I tried to pull my leg back. It looked like I kicked him from the way of the force I was pulling my leg out, but I have to deal with the consequences they ejected me. I have to deal with whatever the league has to say, but I didn't kick him at all.”
Gibson was subjected to the Cavaliers fans throwing objects and towels at him on the way out, the second time a Bulls player has had to deal with such treatment upon walking off the floor in Cleveland this series.
"That's what happens when you're in Cleveland,” Gibson said. “(That's the) second time in a row they threw stuff at us. It's classless, but we're here to play basketball. I can't focus on that kind of stuff.”
Very calmly, Gibson spoke about the incident, seemingly upset with himself that he got caught into anything of the sort. Even if both had been ejected, Gibson’s much more valuable to the Bulls than Dellavedova is to the Cavaliers, especially with Pau Gasol out with a hamstring injury.
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“I gave him a look like, 'What are you doing? This is basketball. This (isn't) wrestling, but it got chippy,'” Gibson said. “Both teams kind of swarmed the situation and made it bigger than what it was, but nobody threw any punches. I'm just sad that I couldn't finish the game and help my team.”
The scrum likely made the officials overreact as opposed to perhaps issuing double technical fouls, even after review. But the NBA will review all altercations to ensure no player stepped off the bench for either side, which is an automatic one-game suspension, and to see if the call for a flagrant-2 was correct.
“I really didn’t see it,” said Derrick Rose, who was on the bench during the play. “I didn’t see Dellavedova, what he did to make Taj do that. That’s out of his character, so I know he wouldn’t just do that. Heat of the moment, you just gotta stay focused and know that his teammates will be there.”
Gibson could be suspended for Game 6 upon review, but perhaps the ejection will soften the league’s stance on further disciplinary action.
“Hmm, I really don’t know, I don’t think it’s flagrant-2 worthy,” Jimmy Butler said. “But Taj still can’t let that happen. Stay cool and move onto the next play.”
By the way, you can bet some of the old NBA players from decades past looked at the altercation and said "child's play."