x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Still in first round and absentees take a front seat in NBA play-offs

Boston not only lost their opener to Atlanta they may lose star Rajon Rondo for a few more games after he was ejected for bumping into a referee.

NBA official Marc Davis, left, was quick to send Rajon Rondo, centre, to the locker room after the two bumped during an argument over a foul.
NBA official Marc Davis, left, was quick to send Rajon Rondo, centre, to the locker room after the two bumped during an argument over a foul.

With the 2012 NBA play-offs already missing one star in Derrick Rose, a couple of others will also be missing the action when their teams return to court, one through injury and the other for his temper.

Not only did the Boston Celtics lose their opener to the Atlanta Hawks 83-74 on Sunday night, the also lost Rajon Rondo to an ejection after he bumped a referee because he disagreed with a call.

Now Boston and their fans are holding their breath to see if Rondo will be invited to sit the bench for a few games courtesy of David Stern, the NBA commissioner, who has always taken a dim view of any player or coach physically trying to abuse or intimidate his referees.

"I didn't intentionally chest-bump him, but that's what it appears to be," Rondo conceded.

The Hawks, who led by as many as 19 in the first half, were clinging to a four-point lead when Rondo lost his cool with 41 seconds remaining. Boston's Brandon Bass was called for a foul on Josh Smith while tussling for a loose ball, with both players sprawled on the court out beyond the foul line. Rondo screamed at official Marc Davis, who called a technical.

Rondo then bumped Davis with his chest and was ejected without hesitation.

"It's out of my control," said Rondo, who up to that point had been a huge bright spot for the Celtics with 20 points and 11 assists. "Obviously, I want to be there for my teammates, but other than that, it's out of my control."

Lobbying for leniency, Doc Rivers, the Celtics coach, said he doesn't think Rondo deserves a suspension.

"I'm always worried, but I would be surprised if that happens," Rivers said. "I thought Rondo was walking toward Marc, and Marc turned back toward him, and that's when Rondo bumped him ... That's all it was, in my opinion. But we'll see."

Rondo had a similar take: "Obviously I was upset about the call and I said some words to Marc. I deserved the first tech. As I was walking, I thought he stopped. My momentum carried me into him.

"I even think I tripped on his foot."

In Memphis, the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Grizzlies 99-98 but lost Caron Butler in the process to a broken left hand.

Early estimates have the forward out four to six weeks.

"I was about to go back in the game and got the X-ray results," Butler said. "I told coach I was ready, and he was about to throw me back in the fire."

The veteran forward is one of the few Clippers with play-off experience, though he was injured last year when he was with the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA champions. A starter, Butler averaged 12 points for the Clippers this season.

"I feel terrible for him," said Vinny Del Negro, the Clippers coach. "He's been such a pro for us, but injuries are part of it. Other guys are going to have to step up like they did tonight. But replacing Caron right now ... he's been so valuable for us all year. I know the guys feel bad."

It was not all bad news, as the Clippers comeback victory tied an NBA play-off record for the biggest deficit ever overcome (21 points) at the end of three quarters.

But now, when they resume the series tomorrow against Memphis, they will be short-handed.

Although not as damaging as Rose's loss to the Bulls or Rondo's to the Celtics, or Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert with the New York Knicks, replacing a starter is never easy and now the Clippers must find a new cog from the options on their bench to fit in their machine that will pick up Butler's 12-point average, with the options being Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, Ryan Gomes and Trey Thompkins, who are all power forwards and not a small forward such as Butler.

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