- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Referee Marc Davis ejects Rajon Rondo from Sunday's Game 1 in Atlanta.ATLANTA -- Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo said he did not intentionally bump a game official, which led to his ejection during the closing moments of Sunday's 83-74 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup at Philips Arena.
Intentional or not, Rondo bumped referee Marc Davis while protesting a foul call against Brandon Bass. Rondo's initial outburst earned him a technical foul -- one he says he deserved -- but he defended himself after the game saying he knows better than to initiate contact with a referee, particularly at this time of the season.
“Well, obviously I was upset about the call and I said some words to Marc," said Rondo. "I deserved the first tech and, as I was walking, I thought [Davis] stopped, my momentum carried me into him -- I even think I tripped on his foot. I didn’t intentionally chest bump him. But that’s what it appears to be.”
The Celtics, who trailed by double digits for much of the night, had whittled Atlanta's lead to 78-74 with 41 seconds to play. Joe Johnson had lost control of the ball and both Josh Smith and Kevin Garnett dove to the floor in a scramble for the loose ball. Smith came up with it and Bass was whistled for his sixth foul when he tried to reach around Smith's flailing body to force a jump ball.
Rondo, who was still fuming from a call that went against Boston shortly before, erupted when Davis whistled the play dead and called the infraction against Bass. As Davis turned to signal the initial technical foul to the scorer's table, Rondo pursued and bumped into Davis' back. Davis immediately signaled for another technical and the automatic ejection.
“It doesn’t matter what I thought," Rondo said when asked what made him so upset. "I thought Josh had traveled. I thought it was a jump ball. But that’s not my job. They made the call and it’s what it is.”
Now Rondo will wait to see if the league will hand down further punishment. From the NBA rulebook: "Any player or coach guilty of intentional physical contact with an official shall automatically be suspended without pay for one game. A fine and/or longer period of suspension will result if circumstances so dictate."
The question is whether Rondo intentionally initiated contact with Davis.
“It’s out of my control," said Rondo. "Obviously, I want to be there for my teammates, but other than that, I have no control right now.”
Asked if he said anything to his teammates, Rondo answered, "They all thought that I was obviously in the wrong. But it may seem that I bumped him, but like I said, I didn’t intentionally chest bump him. I know the rules. Like I said, my momentum carried me into him. I thought he stopped and that’s what it appeared to be.”
Garnett said he didn't see the play, but supported Rondo, though he said the team will be ready to play if he's unable to dress for Game 2.
"It affects us a lot," said Garnett. "[Rondo is] our leader. At the same time, whatever the decision is or whatever the results are, we have to be able to play without him and we will be prepared either way."
Said captain Paul Pierce: "I don’t think [the contact] was done purposely, but that’s up to the league at this point to make a decision, hopefully we’ll have him for Game 2. If not, we have guys in this room that are more than capable of stepping in."
Two years ago in the opening round, the Celtics played without Garnett who was suspended from Game 2 of a series against the Heat. Rondo was suspended two games earlier this season for throwing a ball at a game official.
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