Max Kleber didn’t care much about the monster dunk that Kawhi Leonard threw down over him in the first game of the Mavericks vs. Clippers playoff series.
But he drew the line at the staredown he received from Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins after the play.
“I think the staredown should’ve been a technical foul, in my opinion, but that’s not my decision,” Kleber said Sunday, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I didn’t really care. I get up and try to keep playing, and we kept playing. Stuff like that happens. Obviously, it was an amazing dunk.”
You can clearly see that the Clippers stared down Kleber at the very end of Leonard’s dunk.
But was it enough for a technical? Probably not, considering that neither George nor Cousins is standing directly over Kleber. It’s going to take more than that for the officials to make a call, especially in a close game to start a seven-game NBA playoff series.
If Kleber wanted to avoid the embarrassment that comes with getting posterized, then he could’ve stepped out of the way — or fouled Leonard. But as he explained, he had to choose between picking up a fourth foul or letting Leonard get an easy bucket.
“This is the playoffs, so I’m going to try to contest a shot,” Kleber said. “I don’t care about [being on a highlight]. You don’t try to give up easy baskets.
“I honestly didn’t expect him to jump up and dunk, but it’s not going to hold me back, because at the end of the day, every possession counts. I couldn’t foul. I would do it every time again.”
Kleber has the right attitude about defending, but contesting shots comes with consequences. Sometimes, that means getting posterized and being stared down by your opponents.
And in the playoffs, the refs aren’t going to blow the whistle often for that.
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