Matthew Dellavedova fell into Al Horford’s knees, and Horford responded by dropping an elbow on the Cavaliers guard.
That got Horford ejected from the Hawks’ Game 3 loss.
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.”
I don’t know whether Dellavedova intentionally went for Horford’s knees or not. Neither does Horford.
But Horford’s overreaction shows he believed Dellavedova did.
That was clearly influenced by Kyle Korver’s injury, which is not fair to Dellavedova. Korver dove for a loose ball, putting his knees directly over the ball:
Dellavedova is not to blame there.
He might have been somewhat reckless on last night’s play, and not that it’s excusable, but a single somewhat reckless play this series does not justify Horford’s actions.
Yes, Dellavedova also baited Taj Gibson into an ejection with a dirty leg lock last round:
Even Dellavedova’s teammate, J.R. Smith, called the play dirty. The NBA eventually gave Dellavedova a technical foul for it.
But these two incidents don’t make a pattern, and trying to shoehorn the Korver play into the discussion doesn’t make one, either. Dellavedova has been on the national stage for only these playoffs, and that’s a pretty small sample. If there’s evidence of him repeatedly playing dirty and/or reckless prior, I haven’t seen it.
Obviously, opponents will – and should – be on high alert with Dellavedova in the future. But Horford jumped the gun with his retaliation.