Balls: Coward Howard should be rule, not exception

HOUSTON — The NBA has made a point to come down hard on head shots in the playoffs. Now we’ll see if it has the nerve to stay the course with one of its marquee players.

On Monday night, Houston Rockets lead actor Dwight Howard (rhymes with coward) smacked Andrew Bogut across the face late in the third period, a blow that was as vicious as the one that the Atlanta Hawks’ Al Horford administered to Matthew Dellavedova one night earlier. Except that, while Horford was ejected from the game, Howard got off with nothing more than a basic flagrant foul.

“He shouldn’t have done that,” said Bogut, who could be seen rubbing the right side of his face on the way to his locker. “It is what it is. Whatever they called it, it is, I guess. That’s all I’ve really got to say about that.”

The sequence began when Howard and Bogut jousted for position near the Rockets basket. While Howard attempted to post up, Bogut gave him a hard push from behind. Howard retaliated with a blind forearm shiver that snapped Bogut’s head back.

“Well, you know, I didn’t mean to do anything intentional, to hurt anybody on the floor,” Howard actually said with a straight face. “My reaction was just to get away from him, and I was glad I didn’t hit him.”

The rules call for a Flagrant 2 foul on any intentional contact above the shoulders. Not only would that have taken Howard out of the game, but as a repeat offender who had reached the quota, he would have had to sit out Game 5 on Wednesday night, too.

Bogut told Balls the play should be reviewed, but he doubted anything would come of it.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” said Bogut, who was so unnerved that he proceeded to comment on it. “It’s not up to me. It’s up the league. Hopefully, they’ll have video and can watch it and make an assumption on their own accord. But it is what it is. It’s nothing that I don’t expect.”

Informed that an upgrade would take Howard out the next game, Bogut said, “Is it? I doubt that’s going to happen then.”

BEWARE DIRTYVEDOVA?: Dellavedova has already made an impact as a undrafted Cleveland Cavaliers point guard. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on which side of his body you’re on in a given scrum.

Dellavedova is the kind of overachiever who crashes the fine line between scrappy competitor and cheap-shot artist, a “bad rap” as teammate LeBron James calls it. But when you’re involved in three ugly incidents as he has been this postseason, critics begin to wonder whether there’s another method to the madness.

The latest run-and-hit took place on Sunday night, when Horford tried to behead Dellavedova during an extended scramble for a loose ball. The St. Mary’s product injured Kyle Korver on a roll block earlier in the series, and Horford said he hadn’t forgotten it.

The NBA police remember it as well, no doubt, but that won’t do the Warriors any good if Dellavedva takes out Stephen Curry accidentally on purpose in the next round.

EASY TO BE GREEN: The Warriors’ Draymond Green has worn out the word “phenomenal” in interviews lately. It just so happens that his new Beats by Dre commercial features an Eminem song by that name.

“Still the same,” Green said of his head size. “Nothing like that is gonna change me. I’ll always be me. I know how to be me better than anybody else knows how to be me. And I know how to be me better than I know how to be anybody else. So I’m just gonna stay that way.”

SAME OLD MCDONALD: Now that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is on a roll, he can penalize teams that give multiple chances to players who run afoul of the law again.

Only weeks after the Chicago Bears signed ex-49ers loser Ray McDonald to a one-year deal, he was arrested on Monday in San Jose for the third time, this time for suspicion of domestic violence and child endangerment. The Bears pursued him on the advice of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, whose disregard for personal behavior played a role in his one-way ticket out of Santa Clara last summer.

Until the NFL changes its win-at-all-costs culture, it will continue to be the halfway house of professional sports.

THE LIST: The Warriors are the sixth team in NBA history to record as many as 78 victories in their first 95 games of a season. The other five went on to win the league title. The others:

1996-97 Chicago Bulls

1995-96 Bulls

1985-86 Boston Celtics

1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers

1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers

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