Things got a bit heated in the fourth quarter between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday night. With just over seven minutes remaining in the game and the Cavaliers up 81-73, Thunder forward Luguentz Dort and Cleveland forward Kevin Love needed to be separated. After Dort and Cavs guard Cedi Osman got tied up on the ground fighting for the ball, Dort ends up battling for the ball with Darius Garland.
As Dort tried to pull the ball away from Garland, his elbow flew back and hit Love in the face who was standing right behind him. Love then began walking up on Dort as teammates stepped in between and tried to separate the two. After review of the play, Dort was assessed a flagrant 2 foul and was immediately ejected from the game. Here’s video of the altercation:
After the game, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said he wasn’t expecting Dort to be ejected.
“[Dort] got fouled two times. I thought his swing was to rip the ball away from Garland,” Daigneault said. “He was still playing. He caught Love, he was on the other side of him. We’re frustrated by that. He’s our best defender. I was not expecting that outcome.”
Daigneault may have a point there. When you watch the play in real time, you can see that Dort was simultaneously pulling the ball away from Garland, and as the official blew his whistle Dort’s elbow hit Love in the face. If anything, it looks more like incidental contact. But the officials felt as though Dort’s elbow was deemed unnecessary and excessive contact, which lead to the ejection.
Surprisingly, Love didn’t receive a foul or technical in this situation, as it could be argued that he escalated the situation by approaching Dort. When you watch the replay you can also see that Love hits Thunder guard Josh Giddey in the face with his hand as he’s trying to grab Dort. But the officials didn’t give Love a foul or technical for the altercation.
The Cavaliers went on to win the game 94-87, and improve to 28-19 on the season that currently has them No. 5 in the Eastern Conference.