LA Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. was ejected late in the first quarter of Game 6 on Sunday for a flagrant foul 2 committed against Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic, a continuation of the heated rivalry that has developed between the two players in their Western Conference first-round playoff series.
As Doncic drove to the basket, Morris swiped and smacked him on the right side of his head with 1:07 remaining in the quarter, causing Doncic to crash to the court. Morris glared at Doncic as he was down on the floor, and Doncic bounced to his feet to confront him before players and coaches separated the two.
Referee Scott Foster said in a postgame pool report that the replay showed Morris wind up, make impact and follow through to Doncic’s head and neck area, which was “unnecessary and excessive contact” that merited a flagrant 2 and automatic ejection.
“It was a terrible play. What can I say?” Doncic said after his 38-point, nine-rebound, nine-assist performance in the Mavs’ season-ending 111-97 loss. “It’s two games in a row he did something like that. I really hoped the first game it wasn’t on purpose, but looking back on the foul this game, you know what I think. I don’t want to deal with that kind of players. Just move on.”
Morris said it was “a hard foul” and understood that he got Doncic above the shoulders, which merits a flagrant 2. But he reiterated that he was not trying to hurt Doncic. Morris said he thought it was “absurd” that some thought he was trying to injure Doncic in Game 5 when he stepped on the Dallas star’s left ankle area, which ended up with Doncic’s shoe coming off.
“They had to make that call,” Morris said of the flagrant 2 on Sunday. “I think, honestly, we had a lot of back and forth this series. It was a hard-fought series. I just don’t want people to mistake playing basketball, playing hard with trying to hurt somebody. I think Tim Hardaway had an extremely hard foul with [Paul George] last game and it wasn’t taken in [the same context].”
Talking about Doncic, Morris said, “He’s a young player, he’s going to be the face of the league, I’ve taken into account of all that. I have been around for a while, I know how this thing works… I am a grown man, I stand on my own, like I said, I didn’t mean to step on his ankle. They can say the stuff that they want to say, this and that, on Twitter… whatever they want to say, they can say it. I am going to continue to play, happy that my team is in the second round.”
Morris said he does not think that the flagrant 2 and ejection warrants a potential suspension for Game 1 of the second round.
“Honestly I don’t think it escalated to that level,” Morris said. “It is not like I didn’t touch any of the ball. I didn’t wind up, I didn’t do any of that. It was a hard foul.”
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle called Morris’ flagrant foul “an unnecessary play and unfortunate,” saying it was immediately obvious that the play merited an ejection.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers praised Morris’ play and ability to be “an instigator” during the first round. But Rivers said he believes Morris should not have been ejected and that Morris’ reputation led to the toss.
“I don’t think he should have been thrown out, but listen, I’m biased,” Rivers said. “I thought he made a play on a ball and he hit him on the head. It happens all game. I think it was a reputation throw out, but you’ve just got to live with it. I love Marcus’s intensity. Yeah, he’s a tough guy. He’s not backing down and I love that.”
Asked if Morris’ reputation or previous tension with Doncic played any role in the ruling, Foster said, “No, of course not.”
“I think he got ejected because he’s Marcus, to be honest,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth during the sideline interview after the first quarter in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. “I thought he made a play on the ball and his hand followed through. It happens in every game. We can’t worry about that.”
Morris, who was the Clippers’ primary defender on Doncic in the series, had nine points on 4-of-5 shooting in Game 6 before his ejection.
Sources told ESPN that the Mavericks believed Morris intentionally targeted Doncic’s sprained left ankle twice in Tuesday’s Game 5, a notion Rivers called “absolutely absurd.”
Morris adamantly denied that he meant to step on Doncic’s ankle early in the third quarter, when he jogged from the left wing after a made basket by the Clippers and stepped on the back of Doncic’s leg as he awaited an inbounds pass. The Mavs also requested that the league office review an uncalled landing-space violation by Morris on a made 3-pointer by Doncic in the third quarter, when Morris slid his foot under Doncic as he was in the air.
“Somebody would actually really like try to make a case for me trying to hurt another player intentionally,” Morris said Wednesday. “I stand on respect, morals and hard work, and my family watching [me play] this game. I approach this game with the utmost respect for every player. I have been in many battles with great players and not once have I ever tried to do anything dirty as far as taking a player out of a game. … Luka is a great player for years to come but to try to disrespect my character, I felt the need to speak on that.”
“One thing I am not is a dirty player,” Morris added. “And I hang my hat on being a hard worker. I am a respected man in this league and I hope that people look at that and know me as who I am and I would never go that far, trying to hurt somebody. I just think that’s absurd and it’s just too far.”
Doncic didn’t directly accuse Morris of being dirty — although he did raise his eyebrows and ask a reporter what he thought of Morris stepping on his injured ankle — and said he didn’t care for an explanation from an opponent he’d been exchanging trash talk with throughout the series.
“I don’t want to talk to him,” Doncic said after Game 5. “He’s just saying a lot of bad stuff to me all the game. I just don’t want to talk to him. I just want to move on. Like I say, everybody is going to have their own opinion. I just hope it wasn’t intentional. If that was intentional, that’s really bad.”