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.
“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. “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. The Clippers won the game 111-97 to advance to the second round.
Crew chief Scott Foster explained the call in the referees’ pool report, saying: “During the replay review, we saw a wind-up, impact and follow through to the head and neck area of Doncic. By our standard that is unnecessary and excessive, which by definition is a Flagrant Foul Penalty 2.”
Asked whether Morris’ reputation or his previous tension with Doncic in the series played a role, Foster said, “No, of course not.”
“I mean, it’s a terrible foul,” Doncic said after the game. “What can I say. It’s two games in a row he did something like that. And I really hope the first game, it wasn’t on purpose. But looking back at the foul this game, you know what I think. It’s just — I don’t wanna deal with that kind of players, and just move on.
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.”