Jayson Tatum didn't play in the fourth quarter of the Boston Celtics' win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night, but it wasn't because the Celtics were dominating the Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey-less Sixers. Rather, he was ejected in the closing seconds of the third quarter for arguing a call.
In Tatum's mind, the refs had it out for him. Here are his extended thoughts:
"I was extremely surprised," Tatum said. "Y'all saw what happened. Might not know what I said, but whatever I said doesn't matter at this point. I don't agree with that. One of the assistant coaches was there with me, [he] doesn't agree. But it doesn't really matter. It's like the ref's word against ours. When they throw you out, they throw you out, even if I was right.
"They [were] ready. They [were] ready to throw me out. Did I cuss? No I didn't. I didn't say a cuss word. If you watch the clips you can probably read my lips. No hand gestures. Me and Bill [Kennedy] [were] having a conversation, and the other two refs -- again, like I said, refs can have an affect on the game. They do have an affect on the outcome.
"I've been in the league long enough. I've seen a lot worse behavior and reactions get tolerated for a lot longer. So for those two to throw me out the game, I was shocked. You always say get your money's worth, right? We get fined for these techs, and I definitely did not get my money's worth for getting thrown out of the game tonight.
"Again, I wasn't that f---ing mad, alright? Don't put that narrative out there. I didn't throw [anything]. I said what I said. There [were] no magic words. I didn't cuss. Assistant coach was right there, he heard me. I don't know. Maybe they didn't want me to play tonight? They were eager to get me out of there. ... It was like a joke. I had to laugh it off."
With seconds remaining in the third quarter, Tatum brought the ball up the floor and got trapped by the Sixers. He tried to step through to create some space, but had the ball knocked out of his hands by Robert Covington. As he flailed his arms looking for a call, he then accidentally hit Covington in the face, and was whistled for an offensive foul. The foul was then upgraded to a flagrant one upon review.
While the refs were at the monitor, Tatum started talking to them, which eventually led to a second technical foul and an ejection. (He had previously received a technical in the first quarter.) With the ejection, he finished the game with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
After a series of free throws from Covington gifted by Tatum's flagrant and technical, the Sixers took the lead going into the fourth. They were not able to hang on down the stretch, though, as Al Horford and Payton Pritchard led the way in Tatum's absence. With the win, the Celtics improved to a league-best 15-4 on the season.
Having to close without Tatum wasn't ideal, but head coach Joe Mazzulla wasn't upset.
"I like some of that," Mazzulla said. "I think some of that is important. Obviously, you don't want it to get in the way of winning, but I think that type of passion, and caring about it, I'd rather see that than nothing at all."