The Suns were blown out by the Thunder on Wednesday, in a game that was relatively competitive through the first three quarters. It was a four point game just seconds into the fourth, before the Thunder took control behind 11 points from James Harden in the final period, which helped turn the game into a 20-point laugher for Oklahoma City before the night was through.
But the real joke was on the Suns, and it appeared to come from the officials.
With the game long having been decided and the Thunder leading by 20 points with 1:05 remaining, seldom-used Zabian Dowdell received two quick technicals for comments he made to the officials and was ejected, and Aaron Brooks immediately followed suit.
It’s as unusual an ending to a game as you’ll ever see: two players getting tossed in a 20-point blowout with just over a minute to go. So what happened?
Suns’ players were reluctant to speak to the specific events afterward, but word around the locker room was that one of the referees said something that crossed the line, which caused the overreaction from the players and the ensuing ejections.
The exact comment was reportedly referee Ken Mauer telling Dowdell to “stop being a little b****” after a call, to which Dowdell responded by asking Mauer if he would call him that off the court. That’s when Dowdell was tossed.
Dowdell only described the referee’s comments as “disrespectful”, and said he’s never seen anything like it in his brief time in this league, or in any other he’s played in when I asked him about it afterward. Seth Pollack of SBNation Arizona was there to capture Dowdell’s remarks on video.
As for Brooks, there’s video that appears to show him grabbing himself below the waist before the referees threw him out of the game, as well.
If Mauer said what many reported he said, then the league has a real issue on its hands. Referees unquestionably have an extremely difficult job out there, but under no circumstances can they be allowed to respond to players’ complaints with derogatory comments like this. The league should investigate, and make its findings public.
In the meantime, it obviously wasn’t the best of endings to a game where the Suns competed against a legitimate playoff team for most of it, and it was honestly somewhat embarrassing to see. But given the reserved nature of Dowdell, and his limited time on an NBA court in game situations, you have to believe that whatever was said by the referee had more than a little to do with the way things turned out.