Early in the third quarter of Portland’s easy win over a Bulls team playing without Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol, Mike Dunleavy committed a hard foul on Damian Lillard, who was elevating for a three-point shot.
The play appeared to be unnecessarily violent, and Wes Matthews immediately came to his teammate’s defense as a minor scuffle ensued. Dunleavy was called for a flagrant-one for his actions, and Lillard expressed his displeasure afterward.
Q: How would you describe the foul?
A: “Cheap. It was cheap.”
Q: Safe to say you were angry about it?
A: “I’ve had worse things happen. But that was the last thing I was expecting on a wide-open three-point shot. It was a cheap play. I don’t know what else to say about it.” …
Q: What was going through your mind during the play?
A: “I was surprised. It was kind of funny to me. Because when I was shooting the ball, I saw him coming towards me kind of fast and I was like, ‘He’s not stopping.’ So I kind of let the ball go, I was kind of thrown off when he did it. I fell to the ground and I was like, ‘Did he really just?’ I didn’t understand why. It was cheap. But that’s not something worth my reaction to be all angry. Nothing’s going to happen on the floor anyway.”
The foul appeared to be uncalled for, especially at first glance. But listening to Dunleavy explain his side of it, what he says actually makes some sense.
Again, from The Oregonian:
“I felt bad. (Joakim Noah) went down and it looked like he got hit pretty hard, so I was going to take an intentional foul. Lillard went up to shoot and it was one of those things where I got put in an awkward situation.
“He was in a shooting motion and at that point, I had to foul him hard because I didn’t want to give up a four-point play. It was just an awkward moment. I was going to take the foul but he was shooting a three, so I just went right through him because I wanted to foul but I didn’t want to give up four points on it.
“It was sort of helpless on my part. I was going to intentionally foul him because of Jo being on the floor. But he went up to shoot and at that point, what do you do? I’m not going to go for his legs or head. I just kind of go through his body, didn’t want him to make a three. Nice kid. I got nothing against him. It was totally unintentional in terms of trying to hurt or injure somebody. I was just trying to intentionally foul him because Jo was lying in the paint.”
It’s tough, obviously, because the force with which Dunleavy hit Lillard (along with Lillard’s defenseless position) makes this particular play potentially dangerous. But Dunleavy wanting to stop the action because his teammate was lying on the floor (possibly injured, also in a defenseless position) is somewhat justifiable.