SALT LAKE CITY — The Phoenix Suns were blown out by the Utah Jazz 116-88 on Thursday, but they did show some fight.
As a result, two of their players — Jared Dudley and Marquese Chriss — hit the showers early after getting ejected.
Mayhem erupted at Vivint Arena in the second half of Thursday’s lopsided Jazz win after Chriss landed on the floor following an airballed dunk attempt.
Jazz guard Ricky Rubio grabbed the ball, stepped over Chriss’ feet while the Suns player was still strewn out on the court and then inbounded the ball.
As Rubio headed toward the other end of the court, Dudley pushed him hard and the 6-4, 190-pound Spaniard was knocked backward to the court. After regaining his balance, Rubio quickly stood and approached the 6-foot-7, 240-pound big man when Chriss, a 6-10, 240-pound forward, came from his left, blindsided him and shoved the Utah guard to the court again.
Uh oh, Suns go after Ricky Rubio in Utah. pic.twitter.com/MPlpfTJRNU— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) March 16, 2018
Jazz forward Joe Ingles rushed to Rubio’s defense and went after Chriss before Suns and Jazz coaches, referees and arena security tried to keep the calm.
When the fracas was broken up and the referees reviewed the video evidence, Dudley was given a flagrant penalty-2 foul and Chriss was assessed a technical. Both players were ejected.
Ingles and Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell were both given technicals but remained in the game. Rudy Gobert and Jae Crowder also stepped in to try to break up the ugly situation.
After the loss, Dudley explained the thinking behind his hard foul on Rubio on Twitter, writing, "Thought Quese got fouled, Ref gave them the ball while he was on the ground with my other teammate trying to help him up.. I wanted to stop the fast break( I always do this) The push was a little much but he flopped and sold it.. Flagrant 1 or 2 and you move on.."
Thought Quese got fouled, Ref gave them the ball while he was on the ground with my other teammate trying to help him up.. I wanted to stop the fast break( I always do this) The push was a little much but he flopped and sold it.. Flagrant 1 or 2 and you move on.. https://t.co/Yf6CYlcaFj— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) March 16, 2018
Rubio bristled at reporters after being asked about the altercation.
"I’m not going to talk about the fight for anybody," Rubio said, clearly agitated. "I’m not going to talk about the fight. Don’t ask me about this (crap). OK?"
Mitchell didn't mince words. He thought what the Suns did was uncalled for.
“Two cheap shots for no reason. Jae was pretty much the only one there against Minnesota when it happened, so I think it’s better that we all had (Rubio's) back when it happened," Mitchell said. "We were all there for him. It was cheap. It’s crazy how just because you’re all down by 25 … it’s all right.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder had a much longer response. He's clearly fed up with Rubio being fouled hard by opposing players.
"It just keeps happening. Our point guard’s been leveled, knocked to the ground, two times in one possession tonight," Snyder said. "Guys are going to have each others’ backs. Where it goes when it gets like that you never know what happens."
Snyder said it's hard for his players to not react because it keeps happening.
"It’s cumulative," he said. "Those guys in the locker room, like every team, there's a camaraderie and sense of brotherhood and they're going to defend each other. When these things continue to happen, someone's health is at risk."
Snyder pointed out Dante Exum's injury as an example, but the Jazz coach added that Suns forward T.J. Warren didn't intentionally try to hurt the Aussie guard who finally made his season debut 69 games in.
"That wasn’t a dirty play or anything like that, but those are the kind of things that can happen," Snyder said. "It’s concerning the fact that it continues to happen to us. I’m not saying that we’re being targeted or anything like that. What I'm saying is for our group it’s a challenge. I think guys kept our composure, but at a certain time you want to defend your teammates."