Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony was ejected in the third quarter of Sunday's 103-99 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers when he was assessed a Flagrant II foul for elbowing Blazers' center Jusuf Nurkic in the head.
Anthony was ejected with 4:26 left in the third quarter when he drove into the lane and caught Nurkic in the head with an elbow as he scored at the rim. After going to video review, head referee Rodney Mott deemed that Anthony's elbow was worthy of Flagrant II and ejection. Flagrant foul reviews are decided by the referee in the arena and not handled by the NBA's central review center.
The NBA allows for controversial calls, usually surrounding ejections and late-game situations, to be clarified to one reporter in attendance. Mott explained the call to ESPN's Kevin Pelton following the game.
"We deemed that the contact was excessive," Mott said. "And that it was not a natural basketball move where he seeks out Nurkic, hits him in the face with an elbow and goes back to the basket. So because it's unnatural and it's deemed excessive, therefore it is a flagrant foul penalty two."
Thunder coach Billy Donovan was stunned by the call and ensuing ejection.
"I've never seen, in the history of the game, a guy get an and-1 play and then get ejected from the game," Donovan told reporters after the game. "That's probably something you'd have to talk to the league about. I was actually trying to get Russell's [Westbrook] play reviewed and they told me that it was like 'incidental contact away from basketball play' but they end up reviewing this other one."
Donovan continued: "So to me it's something that the league is going to have to address or deal with because the explanation on Carmelo was that it's a flagrant foul. I didn't see it from where I was standing, I wasn't really looking at the monitor so I'm trusting the fact that the replay did determine that. Three guys are on the court and they call an and-1, and then a guy is thrown out of the game?"
The Blazers led by nine when Anthony, who finished with 15 points and six rebounds, was forced to leave the game. Portland's lead ballooned to as much as 17 points in the third quarter before they rallied to pull within two twice in the final 90 seconds.