It’s hard to prove, but most coaches and front-office executives agree defenses get away with a little more bump-and-grind than in the mid-2000s — when the NBA was obsessed with creating a more viewer-friendly game. The league has heard the concerns, and is monitoring the hand-check stuff. “That area is tough — the freedom of movement, especially away from the ball,” Vandeweghe said. “It’s tough for referees to watch everything. But I think we’ve found a good balance.” (As an aside, Vandeweghe confirmed the controversial last-two-minute reports aren’t going anywhere. In fact, he said the NBA would “probably” start releasing full game reports at some point.)
The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar — who was issued his 10th technical foul of the season for the incident, which appeared to be unintentional — told reporters after the game that he called Maddox’s name before he threw the ball and that he would “never, ever disrespect the game” like that. “I called his name, he turned right at me, then he looked away,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you, brother, I really don’t.
“I saw the video,” Austin Rivers said. “I didn’t do nothing wrong. I didn’t do anything wrong. I reacted to the play; I had no idea the ref was there. I was backing up and I said, ‘Call the foul.’ When I did it, I was turning and he was right there and my elbow touched him. I’ve never in my career put my hands on a ref, and I don’t ever plan to. He knows if I would have pushed him; he would have pushed back [but] he didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t mean to touch him. As he was giving me a tech, I was trying to tell him I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t do anything wrong — I stand by that I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Austin Rivers was kicked out when, after missing a layup, he lightly pushed official J.T. Orr with 6 minutes, 38 seconds to play in the second quarter. Rivers yelled at Orr and waved his arms at him after the ejection and was led off the court by a Clippers employee. When he got to the edge of the court, he tried going back toward the referee and had to be held back by the employee and pulled off the court. Then, during a timeout, Doc Rivers approached lead official Jason Phillips. Rivers said he was asking why Marreese Speights wasn’t awarded any free throws when a whistle was called on a made basket following Austin Rivers’ missed layup.
Russell Westbrook: “I get so many techs just for talking. I can’t even say nothing when I’m getting hammered every time I go to the damn basket through the games and previous games,” Westbrook said. “Not tonight, but every night. I just don’t get reffed the same way as other people, and I don’t appreciate it.”
Memphis weathered a bit of an early second-half rally and still led 61-45 when Westbrook was whistled for two technicals with 6:41 left in the third. “Honestly, it’s crazy, man, especially to be ejected when I didn’t do nothing,” Westbrook said. “It was just crazy, especially for me because I don’t feel I get the benefit of the doubt most of the time, especially throughout the game, with the refs.” Westbrook, the NBA’s leading scorer at 31.7 points per game, left with 21 points, five rebounds and no assists. Enes Kanter scored 19 as Oklahoma City set a season low for points.