Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre was ejected for a vicious shove to the chest of Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in the second quarter of Game 3 between the two teams:
Olynyk leveled Oubre with a screen, but the play didn’t appear to be blatantly dirty. Olynyk was called for an offensive foul — he was clearly not set when contact was made — and actually went over to complain to the referee.
He couldn’t get much of his argument in, though. Oubre immediately popped up and steamed over toward Olynyk. His forearm to the chest put Olynyk on the floor. It’s tough to tell whether Olynyk exaggerated the contact, or if it really was as forceful as his fall would suggest it was.
Referee Monty McCutchen did an outstanding job holding Oubre back and making sure the incident didn’t escalate into much more. Coaches came pouring in from both benches to diffuse the situation. Marcus Smart and other players looked like they wanted to get involved, but all were restrained.
After a review, Oubre was handed a flagrant-2 and an ejection. He could be hit with further discipline — not only for the clearly intentional contact with Olynyk, but for the unintentional contact with McCutchen — after the game when the NBA reviews the incident.
Oubre was clearly angered by the hard screen, but it might not have been all he was angered by, because it wasn’t the first questionable screen Olynyk had set on him during the game. Olynyk had set an overly physical pick on him just minutes earlier. The nature of Oubre’s reaction suggests he might have been wound up by something earlier in the game.
“I think we got to control our emotions,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after the game. “We can’t respond that way. … But if you keep getting hit in the head, you might respond that way, and I think that’s what he did.”
And then there’s the history between the two teams, which likely played a part. Bad blood boiled between them during the regular season. The ongoing beef included John Wall throwing Marcus Smart to the ground, Jae Crowder poking Wall’s nose, postgame commotion and more.
The beef has only intensified in the playoffs. In Game 2, Markieff Morris tossed Al Horford out of bounds and exchanged words with the Celtics center after Horford had (perhaps intentionally, perhaps unintentionally) stepped underneath Morris on a jumpshot, causing him to sprain his ankle in Game 1. Earlier in Game 3, Ian Mahinmi tussled with Jonas Jerebko.
Even Wall and Morris, however, seemingly thought Oubre’s reaction was a bit over the top:
Washington was in control of the game at halftime, up 63-40, and cruised to a 116-89 victory to cut its deficit in the series to 2-1. But if Oubre were to be suspended for the shove, his absence would be crucial for the Wizards, who already lack depth as it is.
Oubre’s ejection turned out to be one of three ejections in the game. Washington’s Brandon Jennings and Boston’s Terry Rozier were also tossed for second technicals. The game featured eight technicals in all, setting the stage for a feisty Game 4 on Sunday.