Nash seemed frustrated by several calls throughout the night, but his frustration boiled over with 4:24 left in the third. He said after the game that it was because he thought Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo struck Nets point guard Patty Mills in the throat and didn’t get called for it.
“I was just standing up for our guys,” Nash said. “I thought Patty took a forearm in the throat from Giannis right in front of the ref. I didn’t think that was fair. I don’t think I was overly demonstrative. I was upset that I got a tech.”
Nash was whistled for a technical foul by Josh Tiven and lost his temper. The usually mild-mannered coach, in disbelief that he was called for a technical, launched into a heated disagreement.
Nash said he didn’t get an explanation from Tiven as to why the initial call was made.
“There wasn’t an explanation,” Nash said. “There’s a lot going on out there, so what happened, happened. I said my piece on the court, and that’s really all there is.”
Several players and coaches tried to hold Nash back as he continued arguing and was quickly called for his second technical and ejected.
Nets guard Kyrie Irving was one of several players who tried to calm Nash down and put his hands on his shoulders, but Nash walked off the floor while receiving support from players at the end of the bench. Nash’s players seemed to appreciate that their coach was sticking up for them.
“We’ve watched him play for 20 years. I’ve seen him talk s— to the refs,” Nets star Kevin Durant said with a wry smile. “I’ve been on the court with him when he’s talked crazy to the refs. My first few years, Steve used to talk so crazy to the refs. So when he didn’t get a tech as a coach, I’m like, ‘Where that s— at?’ Because he’s feisty. But you got to handle yourself differently as a coach, but sometimes you just want to go out there and fight for your guys, and I think that’s what he did tonight.”
Both Durant and swingman Ben Simmons also received technical fouls earlier in the game, with the Nets seemingly frustrated at what they thought was an inconsistent whistle.
While Nash had support from his team, Durant said it didn’t make a difference to him whether Nash defended the group in that manner — he said he always believes Nash has his back.
“It might make a difference for some players,” Durant said. “I don’t care either way. I mean, I know my coach is there for me. I know he supports us and wants the best for us. So him getting a tech [doesn’t] really enforce that in my mind more. I like that he was excited about the game and into the game that much, but he’s always into the game. I don’t think that proves a point to us, to me, I don’t [know] about the rest of my teammates, but to me, nah.”