On one hand, you didn't really expect a Minnesota Timberwolves team that had won just four times in its previous 25 games and only dressed nine players thanks to their now-customary horrendous injury luck to put up too much of a fight against the visiting Miami Heat, who'd entered on a franchise-record-tying 14-game winning streak and have established themselves as the clear favorites to repeat in the race for this year's NBA title. On the other, though, Rick Adelman's nine-man Wolves squad remains scrappy, second-year forward Derrick Williams has started to emerge a bit in big minutes over his last eight games, the Heat were playing the second game of a back-to-back that began with a Sunday win over the New York Knicks, and reigning MVP LeBron James entered as a game-time decision with a twisted left knee.
So maybe it shouldn't have caught us too much by surprise, then, that the Wolves had hung with the defending champs through the game's first 39-plus minutes, riding strong performances from Williams, point guard Ricky Rubio and rookie reserve Alexey Shved to stay within two possessions at 76-70 with just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter; it was a pretty inspiring display by a clearly outgunned team showing a lot of fight.
Until, of course, Minnesota guard J.J. Barea showed a bit too much fight in guarding Heat sharpshooter Ray Allen on a drive to the basket. Check out the play, which resulted in a somewhat surprising flagrant foul-2 and Barea's automatic ejection:
After Barea got the gate and delivered some ... um ... choice and completely NSFW words to Allen on his way off the floor, Allen made his two flagrant freebies, then another free throw after Adelman was T'd up for complaining about the flagrant call, pushing the Heat lead to nine. The wheels pretty much totally fell off for Minnesota from there, as Miami outscored the Wolves 21-11 over the final 8:09 to cruise home to a 97-81 win that set a new Heat franchise record for consecutive victories at 15.
After the game, though, the big story wasn't the win streak or the continued stellar play of James (20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in 35 minutes on a twisted knee) or Dwyane Wade (a game-high 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds) — instead, we were talking about the dust-up, with two very, very different viewpoints on the level of contact that led to the flagrant-2 and the referees' decision in giving J.J. the gate.
First, Barea's postgame comments to reporters, including Jerry Zgoda at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Afterward, Barea basically called Allen a baby — even though lip-reading watchers at home well know he called him something else — for reacting so strongly.
“I’ve been playing in the NBA seven years,” Barea said. “I get hit harder than that every night. I don’t get up crying, I don’t want to fight. Bynum almost knocked me out for the rest of my life. I didn’t get up crying. It was just a little bump, it’s part of the game. Don’t be like that.” [...]
Barea said he expects the NBA will downgrade the call. [...]
“I just have one question to ask the league,” Adelman said afterward. “Why is that a flagrant 2 tonight and the other night [Sunday against Golden State] Jarrett Jack hit [Greg] Stiemsma in the stomach with a forearm and that was a flagrant 1? I would just like to know the difference. That changed the whole game tonight.”
Next up, Allen's take, as captured by Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
“It’s uncalled for,” Allen said. “I’ve managed to keep a level head throughout my career. You have your moments where things get heated. When you come down from it, you can say, 'That was my fault. I was in a bad situation. I was really frustrated.’ But even in that situation, I wasn’t frustrated. It was just bad judgment, I thought from the other side.” [...]
“There was a play where he knocked the ball away and I got it back,” Allen said. “Then he just leveled me. I thought it was uncalled for. There is no place for that in the game." [...]
“You’re not scaring me,” Allen said. “You’re not going to force me to back down from you.”
OK, then — we've dutifully presented each side's take in he-said, he-said format. Now, actually considering the play in question ... c'mon, you two.
Allen got away with a bit of a push-off to create space from Barea up high on the play, Barea got away with a bit of an attempted flop to exaggerate the legitimate contact and draw an offensive foul, Allen drove, Barea committed a hard foul, and Allen and the referees completely overreacted. That's about the size of it, right? A few wrongs combining to make one larger, more egregious wrong?
I'm not sure if Barea's right and the flagrant will be downgraded by the league office after the fact, but just one night after Serge Ibaka was given a flagrant-1 for hitting Blake Griffin in the gentleman's quarters, reasonable viewers would be well within their rights to wonder just what the heck is going on in terms of in-game application of the rules regarding flagrants ... and, if they're Wolves fans, growling a little bit after watching their team fall to 4-22 since Jan. 8.
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, you can check out the foul and its aftermath elsewhere, thanks to HEATPOSTERIZED.
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