Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers is pushing back against Kristaps Porzingis' claim that the Clippers provoked the Dallas Mavericks forward into picking up his second technical foul during Game 1 of the first-round Western Conference series Monday.
Porzingis said the Clippers "got what they were looking for" after he was ejected for trying to play peacekeeper between Luka Doncic and Marcus Morris Sr. Speaking to the media after Tuesday's practice, Rivers told reporters that wasn't the case.
"We have some guys who are agitators. I think that's good," Rivers said (h/t USA TODAY's Mark Medina). "But I can guarantee you that wasn't on our game-plan list. That's just ridiculous."
The Clippers won Game 1, 118-110.
After Monday's contest, Doncic noted his teammate was coming to his aide, saying, "I don't think it's fair to get him out of the game, especially in the playoffs."
He wasn't alone in that line of thinking, either.
LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love all tweeted criticism of the ejection and sided with Porzingis. The forward said he needs to take it as a lesson going forward. Rivers, meanwhile, said he believes the incident in question only became overblown once Porzingis intervened.
"That wasn't enough for anyone else to get involved," Rivers said. "There was Marcus and Doncic having a conversation. For him to come into that, to me, it had to be something else later or earlier that they got into. There was nothing there. There was not enough for him to run in and be the peacemaker. There was no war going on."
Morris has long played the role of agitator on the court, even going back to his college days at Kansas. It's part of what makes him valuable on the floor. When he's got the right combination working, it's a trait that both adds confidence to his game and gets inside his opponent's head.
But that doesn't mean Rivers necessarily agreed with the referees stepping in as quickly as they did.
Both Paul George and Porzingis were hit with technicals during the first half for disagreeing with officials. By giving Porzingis another tech in the second half, essentially saying the Mavs star acted as an escalator in the situation, the referees took one of Dallas' most important players out of action with more than 20 minutes left in regulation.
"It happened. We'll take it. But that's not the way you want the game to go," Rivers said. "I just hate throw outs over emotion. If it's a fight, that's different. But I want our guys to play. That's all I'll say to that. To the officials' defense, it's tough. They're trying to control the game. The emotions are the game. That's why I get it. It's a hard job."