After three-and-a-half quarters of closely contested basketball, the Golden State Warriors’ final game before the All-Star break went off of the rails with one slam of a clipboard.
In a rare flash of rage, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was ejected from Wednesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers for arguing a flagrant foul call against Draymond Green with just under four minutes to play.
After Kerr — who was held back by Kevin Durant — was ejected, the Portland Trailblazers were awarded five free throws, and finished on a 19-5 run to cap a 129-107 win over the two-time defending NBA champions.
“I was just shocked that that was called a flagrant foul,” Kerr said. “I thought our guys really fought, which was one of the reasons why I was frustrated because our guys were fighting. We were scrapping and clawing.”
Coming off of a 115-108 win over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, Golden State entered its last game before the break without center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Andre Iguodala. Both were scheduled for rest considering the workload each had endure in four games in seven nights.
Undermanned and over-exerted, Golden State was pleased to see forward Kevin Durant find his stroke early as the two-time Finals MVP scored 16 points in the first period on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor.
Durant would add another four points into the second quarter, giving him 20 points in the first half. Despite his typically-efficient effort, the Warriors would head into the locker room down by three.
For Portland, the starting backcourt of Oakland native Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum would help edge out Golden State early thanks to 25 combined points.
Evan Turner, who shot 80 percent from the field in the first half — nearly twice his career average of 43 percent — would also be a problem for the Warriors as his nine points paced either team’s bench.
Golden State would quickly reclaim the lead in the second half as Durant and Warriors point guard Stephen Curry carried the scoring load in a closely contested period.
After five lead changes and four ties in the third, Golden State gave itself a one-point lead heading into the fourth, up 95-94. But as the final period began, things started to head up.
Starting with offsetting technical fouls on Portland forward Zach Collins and Warriors guard Klay Thompson, tempers began to flare between two teams.
Four minutes later at the 3:54 mark of the fourth, Green reached for the ball as Collins drove to the basket. While initially thought to be a hard — yet common — foul, Green was assessed a flagrant 1 for excessive and violent contact.
“I got a lot of ball,” Green said. “I don’t know. I guess that’s the Draymond rule. I knew they would look at it because they always look at fouls with me. But whatever.”
With the upgrade of the foul, free throws and possession of the ball were awarded to Portland but it also was the event that lit Kerr’s fuse.
Slamming his clipboard at the feet of the referee in front of the scorers table, Kerr unleashed an expletive-laced fit of rage, resulting in his ejection.
“It’s just head scratching that can be called a flagrant,” Kerr said. “I mean a guy’s going to go in for a dunk and you’ve got to make sure he doesn’t dunk it. I told [the referee] that I beg to differ.”
In the final 3:54 of the game, the angry and discombobulated Warriors would be outscored 19-5.
Half of those points were the result of eight points in that one possession for Portland, tallied up from the technical free throws thanks to Kerr and Green awarded to the Trail Blazers.
While Warriors — who lost just their second game in their last 18 — said they are disappointed as to how the game devolved, their focus has now shifted to the All-Star break rather than sulking in the moment.
“I thought we should have just kept playing. It was a common foul, I thought,” Durant said. “I can understand why coach was frustrated … It is what it is. Just get ready for break.”