CLEVELAND (AP) — Al Horford threw an elbow at Matthew Dellavedova during the game.
He saved a few more shots for Cleveland’s scrappy guard afterward.
Horford was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul and tossed from Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night for striking Dellavedova above his shoulders late in the first half.
Horford and Dellavedova got tangled on the floor while scrambling for a loose ball, and as Dellavedova was rolling up on his right knee, Horford brought his right arm down hard and struck the side of the scrappy Australian guard’s head.
The officials took several minutes looking at the play on a video monitor before ejecting Horford, who had 14 points at the time of his dismissal. The Hawks lost 114-111 in overtime and trail 3-0 in the series.
Horford felt Dellavedova had dived at his legs.
“I did think he went at me but I should have handled it better,” Horford said. “Shouldn’t have gotten caught up in that and it’s something I’ll definitely learn from. The game before I got hit in the knees and it just kind of played over again.”
Horford was one of several Hawks irritated by Dellavedova, who had knocked Hawks guard Kyle Korver out for the postseason with a similar play in Game 2.
“You’re always upset when you lose one of your teammates,” Horford said. “He’s (Dellavedova) a player that plays hard but there’s got to be a line at some point. He’s got to learn. He’s only been in this league for a couple of years but he’s got to learn that at the end of the day, it’s a big brotherhood here. Guys look out for each other and I don’t think it was malicious but he’s got to learn.”
Dellavedova defended his actions, saying he was only trying to get the ball.
“I would obviously disagree with that, I was boxing him out,” Dellavedova said. “You can see from the baseline view that he’s pulling my arm.”
LeBron James, who carried the Cavs within one win of the NBA Finals with a triple-double, became angry when he heard the Hawks’ accusations that Dellavedova is a dirty player.
“That is a fundamental box out, that’s all it is,” James said. “We’re not trying to get people hurt. But you play to win the game and you play aggressively. This guy, he works his tail off every single day. He beats the odds and he comes to play as hard as he can every single night. If they’re focusing on Delly, they’re focusing on the wrong thing. People are trying to give him a bad rap. He doesn’t deserve it and I don’t like it.”
The NBA posted an explanation on the play, saying: “Horford threw an unnecessary and excessive forearm/elbow to Dellavedova, making contact above the shoulders, therefore a Flagrant 2 foul was called on Horford.”
Horford could face further discipline from the league.
While the officials huddled, Cleveland fans serenaded Dellavedova with chants of “Del-lee! Del-lee!” He was given a technical foul for his actions.
“We felt that he made contact with his head and shoulders into the knee area of Horford, so we ruled that a liveball physical taunt technical foul,” referee Ken Mauer said to a pool reporter.
Dellavedova, too, had a run-in with Chicago’s Taj Gibson in the second round. Gibson had to kick himself free from Dellavedova, who scissor-locked his legs around the Bulls forward. Gibson was assessed a Flagrant 2 and Dellavedova was issued a technical foul the following day.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.