After crashing to the floor on a hard second-quarter foul by the Lakers' Ronny Turiaf Sunday, Jazz backup point guard Ronnie Price, eight inches shorter and 60 pounds lighter, jumped up off the floor and started toward Turiaf and had a few words for him. Then he cooled quickly and went in a different direction, his brow bleeding from contact with the floor.
"Emotions are going. Things happen. It was just a reaction," said Price, who took four stitches to his right eyebrow and came back to make what teammate Carlos Boozer called the play of the game in the fourth quarter of Utah's overtime 123-115 win over Los Angeles to tie the series at two games apiece at EnergySolutions Arena.
"I stopped myself because I realized maybe it was just an accident," said Price. "I'm pretty sure it was.
"Just the playoffs, that's all I can say," he added. "It happens. Me and Ronny are good friends. We came out pretty much the same year. He probably didn't mean to foul me like that, but you know, your emotions run and things happen."
Turiaf received a flagrant 2 foul and ejection and could be subject to further NBA discipline for the play at 10:07 of the second quarter.
Price had stolen the ball from Turiaf after Turiaf had made a steal from Utah's Matt Harpring, and Price raced downcourt. But a foul was called against the Lakers' Sasha Vujacic as Price drove. Turiaf blocked Price's path and came down with his arms to prevent the shot, knocking Price backward, his feet up in the air.
Turiaf was quickly ejected.
"In no way, shape or form was I trying to hurt anybody," said Turiaf, who played his college ball at former Jazz guard John Stockton's alma mater, Gonzaga in Spokane.
"In no way, shape or form was I trying to do anything dirty.
"I tried to go for the blocked shot. Our bodies kind of collided, and he fell to the floor."
Turiaf added, "Everybody is questioning my character."
Said Price, "I don't look at him as a bad guy at all, and I don't think that people should throw that kind of reputation on him.
"I'm over it, and I hope that whatever happens with him is not too critical, but I can't be the judge of that. The league has to be the judge of that."
Laker coach Phil Jackson said the call was not right. "Absolutely not. I thought the kid (Price) was out of control when he went in. Ronny did go up to block the shot, but I think he entirely played the ball. I was very surprised (Turiaf) was put out of the ballgame."
Said Harpring, who plays tough basketball himself, "I thought they had the right call. It was after the (Vujacic foul) call was already made. I thought the refs made the right call."
Jazzman Ronnie Brewer said it was a hard foul, but he didn't think Turiaf had intent to injure. "It's part of basketball that you're not supposed to give up an easy layup. But at the same time, the whistle blew, and there was a lot of force put on it."
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who was on the court quickly, said he thought the play inspired the Lakers, who were down eight after Price made a free throw and came back to tie it at the half.
Price only played nine minutes and scored four points, but he had a big impact with his hustle, two steals, two assists and his block on a Luke Walton fast-break layin at 7:18 of the fourth with Utah up eight.
"That block was the play of the game, man," said Boozer.
Price, who had just missed a 3-pointer, raced up behind Walton and blocked the shot from the back, like an Andrei Kirilenko play from a guy who's only 6 feet 2 inches tall.
"I saw him slowing down, so I just went for it, got a hand on it," said Price. "I was a little surprised that I got there in time."He said he had no worries about going high in the air again in almost the same place where he'd crash-landed two quarters earlier. "It's stitches, man, not a broken bone. I'm not scared of stitches.