Brad Stevens had never been ejected at any level of basketball before Saturday, and he wasn’t proud of breaking his streak.
With 35 seconds left in the game, Stevens and Gerald Wallace were issued four technical fouls in short succession and tossed from the Boston Celtics’ 105-98 loss to the Sacramento Kings. Getting the Jerry Sloan Special wasn’t Stevens’ idea of a good time, though he was apologetic afterward in declining to discuss the first time in his coaching career he’s been send to the lock room early.
“I don’t know what Gerald said,” Stevens told reporters. “I’ll just avoid talking about it. That’s probably the best thing.”
Whatever he said — though it doesn’t sound like much — Stevens’ ejection fittingly summed up just how exasperated the Celtics (19-38) were with the officiating against the Kings (19-36). Longtime Celtics nemesis Marc Davis being part of the crew working the game didn’t help, either, to lessen the feeling of injustice.
When DeMarcus Cousins picked up his fifth personal foul on a charge with just under eight minutes left in the game, the Celtics felt they were in control. Kelly Olynyk hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to cut Boston’s deficit to one point, and when Cousins nearly flipped out while shoving away Kris Humphries a couple of minutes later, the Celtics thought for sure the Kings center, who already had a technical foul in the game, was done for the night.
But Davis, Eli Roe and David Guthrie swallowed their whistles, as they did most of the night. Cousins battled throughout the game with Humphries, Brandon Bass and Joel Anthony, and every Celtics defender managed to stay out of foul trouble. Still, the Celtics were not pleased that it took until the final 31 seconds for Cousins to finally receive his sixth foul.
You might not be happy about it, but congratulations on your first NBA heave-ho, Brad. Here’s to many more — because that would mean you get to stick around the league for a while.
Stevens certainly wasn’t thrilled with the officiating, but the fact that the referees let both teams play might actually have worked in the Celtics’ favor. Boston’s interior defenders were extremely physical with Cousins, none more so than Humphries. Yet Humphries finished with only three personal fouls and racked up 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes.
Cousins played dumb with print reporters afterward, claiming he didn’t know who Humphries was. In an earlier postgame interview, however, Cousins made clear that he recognized Humphries.
“He’s a scrappy guy,” Cousins said. “That’s the type of role he has to have to stay in this league, so I guess he’s got to do his job.”
It was meant as a backhanded compliment, but it was a compliment nonetheless. Cousins could learn a few things from Humphries, in fact. Much of the Celtics’ second-half comeback from 16 points down was made possible by Cousins complaining to the referees and taking multiple plays off. He’s also not much of a defender, not because he lacks the skills but because he lacks the desire.
Cousins is right about Humphries needing to be scrappy to stay in the NBA. But Cousins could also stand to benefit from being a little more scrappy himself, and not just in the ways that earn technical fouls.