Anyone watching the NBA playoffs would agree that an inordinate amount of the referees’ time has been spent at the sideline replay monitor.
The physicality of the playoffs has necessitated a great number of reviews, slowing the pace of games to a crawl. But they are not without reason considering that the stakes of a single possession are much higher in May than they were in December. One call can swing a quarter, game and series.
One such review that changed the complexion of Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Warriors and Grizzlies was the Flagrant 2 foul — and automatic ejection — on Draymond Green for making contact with Brandon Clarke’s face and grabbing his jersey, pulling him to the ground. Warriors fans could not believe the call to throw Green out — after all, the final jersey tug was to try to keep Clarke upright, wasn’t it?
And then came Game 2‘s review, when it became clear that Memphis’ Dillon Brooks was at best reckless in winding up and smacking Gary Payton II in the head while the Warriors guard went up for a fast-break layup.
Brooks was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul, disqualifying him, and Payton fractured his elbow on a play that Steve Kerr said “broke the code” of acceptable physicality in the NBA playoffs.
“The line is pretty clear,” Kerr said after the game. “You don’t hit a guy when he’s in midair, club him and break his elbow. That’s where the line is.”
So, we know where Kerr’s line is, but how is that line defined in the rulebook? Straight from the NBA’s officiating website:
Flagrant Foul Penalty 1: Unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponentFlagrant Foul Penalty 2: Unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponentWhen a flagrant foul call is made, referees conduct a review and consider the following:
- Whether the foul call can be categorized as a flagrant 1 or flagrant 2 (thus ejection) or stay as a common foul or changed to a technical foul
- Whether any other players committed unsportsmanlike acts immediately prior to and/or immediately following the foul.
Both penalties result in two shots and the ball for the fouled team, but the Flagrant 2 carries an automatic ejection. (A player who commits two Flagrant 1s in a single game would also be disqualified.)
Additionally, there is a point system for repeat offenders in the playoffs: Any player who exceeds three “flagrant points” over the course of the playoffs is subject to suspension. A Flagrant 1 foul earns one point, while a Flagrant 2 foul earns two points.
Green now has two points on his record. Two Flagrant 1 fouls or another Flagrant 2 would result in a one-game suspension. Any further flagrant fouls beyond that would garner a longer suspension.
The player carries his points for the entirety of his postseason run, so even if Green stays out of trouble for the next two rounds and picks up a Flagrant 2 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, he’d be suspended for Game 7.