In his return after missing three games with the flu, Celtics point guard Kemba Walker was ejected for the first time in his nine-year NBA career Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
“I thought I was being nice,” Walker said following Boston’s 129-114 loss. “I thought the ref missed a call and just voiced my opinion a little bit. The rest was history.”
Midway through the third quarter, Walker hit the deck after 6-foot-11, 250-pound Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge set a hard screen. Upon the non-call, Walker immediately put his arm up asking for a foul. Play soon was stopped when center Daniel Theis was called for a personal foul while defending Derrick White, allowing Walker to further make his case to referee Evan Scott.
Scott, however, didn’t seem to want to hear it, as he swiftly whistled Walker for two technical fouls over the span of five seconds. Coach Brad Stevens, who voiced his displeasure with the sequence, was also called for a technical.
Kemba Walker has been ejected from game vs. Spurs ? pic.twitter.com/cXCXaRaiAO
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 9, 2020
Via a pool reporter after the game, crew chief Rodney Mott cited profanity as the reasoning behind Walker’s two technical fouls. Walker appeared to say, “That’s a f****** foul,” in the brief moment between his two technicals.
“I guess tonight he felt I said a little bit too much,” Walker said. “That’s his choice.”
Asked if he thought he’s deserving of a bit more leeway in reacting to officiating, Walker seemed to agree. He also noted with a smile that he’s a two-time recipient of the league’s annual sportsmanship award.
“I watch a lot of basketball,” Walker said. “I’ve seen other guys do a lot worse, but, like I said, the choice was his. He made it. He got me out of there. What can I do? Really just forget about it at this point.”
Walker’s ejection prompted the sellout TD Garden crowd to chant, “bull-****, bull-****,” their typical response to calls they find unsavory. But one fan took things a step further by throwing a drink that landed on the court near San Antonio’s bench. A Celtics spokesman said after the game the fan was identified and arrested.
Stevens said he apologized to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
“I told Pop after the game I’m really sorry that they had to experience that,” Stevens said. “I hope that person’s not allowed in an NBA arena again.”
The eventful sequence marked the end of Boston’s comeback efforts. Trailing by as many as 22 points, including a 22-3 first-quarter deficit, the Celtics came within seven leading up to Walker’s ejection. Hitting four of their five free-throw attempts — three from the technicals and two from the personal foul — the Spurs regained their double-digit lead, one they never relinquished.
“I wish I obviously didn’t get ejected because it definitely just swung the game right back in their favor,” said Walker, who finished with six points on 3-for-6 shooting and four assists. “We were definitely making a run and on our way back.”
Wednesday marked Boston’s second straight defeat and fourth straight game in which they haven’t played to their potential. In both of their two most recent losses, the Celtics did not lead.
Up next are the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night.
“If we don’t play hard again, then we’ll get pounded again,” Stevens said.