Sloan Ejected Late as Jazz Fall to Suns
Utah came into this one without Andrei Kirilenko, who sat out with a strained calf, and lost Mehmet Okur to a "possible stomach virus" after just 12 minutes of play in the first half. The absence of Utah's primary front court players paved the way for a dominant performance from Amar'e Stoudemire, who put up a season high of 44 points on 14-of-16 shooting.
It was a physical game throughout, as evidenced by the 50 personal fouls that were called, along with the 72 combined free throw attempts. And that physicality continued right up until the final buzzer sounded.
The game had already been decided, but with the Suns leading by 11 as the final seconds ticked away, Grant Hill chased down Ronnie Price on a breakaway. While attempting to block a layup, Hill ended up leveling Price as time expired. Price was on the floor for a few seconds thereafter, surrounded by his teammates and a few Suns players as well.
Amar'e Stoudemire was on the bench when this play went down, but jogged down from the other end of the floor to see what was happening. Remember, time had expired, so there technically was nothing wrong with that -- but this is when things started to go haywire for Utah's head coach, Jerry Sloan.
Sloan was apparently protesting the fact that Stoudemire had come off the bench during an "altercation," and in doing so, the coach ended up making contact with referee Michael Smith. This caused Sloan to pick up two quick technical fouls and be immediately ejected from the game, even though there were just 0.2 seconds put back on the clock for Price to shoot his two free throws.
When asked about the ejection afterward, Sloan pleaded self-defense when discussing the contact with the official.
"I put my arm up to keep him from coming any farther," Sloan said. "I've had trouble with him before."
Sloan said he wasn't protesting the severity of the foul, but that he was upset that Stoudemire had come off the bench as far as he had after the play was over.
"I was making a case about Stoudemire being in front of our bench," Sloan said. "When an altercation or something comes up and their player comes down in front of our bench ... he wasn't supposed to be there. That's what my complaint was about. The security let him come all the way down in front of our bench, so I just said that he didn't belong there."
Stoudemire said that he thought the game was over, and he wasn't interested at all in the final play -- he was just coming over to congratulate his teammates for the victory.
"The game was over according to the clock," Stoudemire said. "I ran down to give my guys high-fives, like I always do after every game."
A coach making contact with an official is something the league takes fairly seriously; if they don't see it the way Sloan explained it, it could easily result in a suspension for the tenured head coach. But whether it does or doesn't, Sloan isn't likely to try to revise history, or look for ways to avoid any consequences.
"I'm not going to lie to 'em," Sloan said. "I'll take whatever penalties they have. I'm not going to run and hide from it or beg from somebody. I've been there before, it's not my first rodeo."