SAN FRANCISCO -- Tuesday evening's NBA In-Season Tournament game between the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves turned eventful early, as three players were ejected during a scuffle less than two minutes into the first quarter. It started when Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels grabbed hold of each other's jerseys, resulting in a wrestling match of sorts around the half-court line.
When Wolves center Rudy Gobert grabbed Thompson from behind, Warriors forward Draymond Green put his arm around Gobert's neck, resulting in a chokehold that lasted for several moments. While Thompson, McDaniels and Green were all ejected from the game, Gobert was deemed by the officials to be a "peacemaker" and received no penalty.
Multiple Warriors disagreed with the referees' assessment of Gobert's role in the altercation, including head coach Steve Kerr, who said that "Rudy had his hands on Klay's neck," which necessitated Green's intervention.
Gobert said he was simply trying to break up the scuffle, calling out Green for his reaction and suggesting that he went into the game with the intention of getting ejected since Stephen Curry was already .
"I went to try to disconnect the situation between Jaden and Klay, and then I just felt someone grabbing me," Gobert said after the game. "My first thought was, I'm not going to fight, I need to be in this game to help my team. So I showed the ref I had my hands up and I just waited until the situation was over. Nothing more than that. It wasn't really enough of a choke for me to sleep. I just kept my hands up and waited until it was over.
"It's kind of funny because before the game I was telling myself Steph is not playing, so I know Draymond is going to try to get ejected. Every time Steph doesn't play, he doesn't want to play without his guy Steph, so he's doing anything to get ejected. It's all good.
"Just clown behavior. I'm proud of myself for being the bigger man, again and again. It doesn't even deserve me putting my hands on him. My team needed me tonight, so I wanted to keep my cool and not make the situation worse. I do hope the league is going to do what needs to be done, because that's just clown behavior. There's not much to say, it's clown behavior."
Gobert added he thought Green's intention was to "take him out" in an interview with The Athletic. "If he knew how to choke it could have been way worse," Gobert said.
The Wolves withstood a valiant effort from the Warriors to come away with a 104-101 victory, as Gobert tallied nine points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. In the absence of Thompson, Green and Curry, the Warriors were led by 23 points from rookie Brandin Podziemski and 21 points from center Dario Saric.
Both teams will await a decision from the league on whether further action, namely suspensions or fines, will be handed down.