The Dallas Mavericks beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-97 Sunday afternoon to sweep the season series against the opposing conference foe.
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) May 10, 2021
Great, we got the necessities out of the way. Now it’s time to talk about the flagrant two foul called on NBA Superstar Luka Doncic.
Early in the third quarter, Collin Sexton and Doncic got into a mini-scuffle under the basket. Doncic turned and his hand struck Sexton below the belt. The action resulted in a five-minute review of the incident and an eventual Doncic disqualification.
Here is a look at the play:
Better angle of Luka Doncic punching Collin Sexton in the groin area
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) May 10, 2021
Now, there is no denying that Doncic striking Sexton below the belt was uncalled for. And there is also no denying that Doncic’s actions fit the textbook definition of a flagrant two foul call. In the NBA rule book, it’s defined as such, “Unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent.” Doncic’s action was unnecessary and a bit excessive, but initially, it looked as though he was aiming to take a swipe at Sexton’s arm. The reason it’s believable that Doncic aimed to take a swipe at an arm instead of a groin lies in the fact that Sexton initiated the contact. The below the belt swipe never happens if Sexton doesn’t intentionally bump into the back of Doncic on that same play.
It’s easy to believe that Doncic was surprised by the unnecessary bump, and his retaliation was a simple reaction. He even said so himself:
“After I saw the video, I knew I hit him, but it wasn’t nothing on purpose. I think that kind of stuff happens a lot in games, but I don’t know. That is my explanation. It obviously wasn’t on purpose. It was just two guys fighting for a rebound,” Doncic said.
Sexton also agreed that there was no harm or malice in the play, stating “It was just a box-out play. Usually whenever someone is hand-checking, then you punch down or swing down. It was just in the groin, but it’s all good.”
Do I personally like to see a flagrant two called in this situation, no. In my mind, it made more sense to administer a double-technical foul and move on with the contest. However, that wasn’t the way the professional referees saw the play. The law of the game and the spirit of the game are two drastically different things. There is also a huge reason the NBA takes shots below the belt so seriously (cue the montage of Draymond Green in 2016).
The flagrant two is not listed as a technical foul, so it won’t trigger an automatic one-game suspension for Doncic. And by the letter of the law, the flagrant two makes complete sense. However, it does somewhat prove the “old heads” right in NBA circles. There is a part of the game that is a bit softer than it used to be.
The game by the numbers:
With no Doncic for the majority of the second half, there was no trouble for the Mavs as they steamrolled Cleveland throughout the remainder of the game.
Tim Hardaway Jr. led Dallas in scoring with 25 points in 27 minutes. He was a plus 20 while on the floor, and he made 7-11 of his 3-point attempts.
Hardway Jr. currently sits third in most 3-point shots made in a season with 191. The two guys sitting in front of him are himself with 204 made 3-pointers and George McCloud with 257 made 3-pointers.
He will more than likely run out of games to hit the record (four games raiming). However, in an 82-game season, there is no doubt that the 257 mark could be reached by Hardway Jr. easily.
Others to get involved on the scoring front are Josh Richardson, Jalen Brunson, and Dwight Powell. Richardson tallied 20 points on 14 shots. Brunson scored 13 without missing a single field goal (5-5). Powell pitched in with 12 points and nine rebounds.
This was another game where the rotation pieces made up for the lack of Doncic. And before the playoffs, this is a great sign. There is real hope that Hardaway Jr.’s recent scoring binge can continue into meaningful summer basketball. It’s no surprise that he is playing his best at a time when every game is a must-win, as the Mavs aim to avoid the play-in tournament at all costs.
Sunday’s win marks the 10th win in the last 12 games for the Mavericks. A clear trend that is headed upwards. With the role players firing on all cylinders, Dallas aims to peak at just the right time. So Doncic or not, the Mavs seemingly aren’t missing a beat right now.
Feature image via Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports.