MINNEAPOLIS — The third game of Isaiah Thomas‘ comeback from a torn labrum in his hip was cut short Monday when the Cleveland Cavaliers guard was ejected in the third quarter for a hit on Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Thomas swung his right arm upward at a driving Wiggins, catching the Wolves forward in the neck and jaw area, dropping Wiggins to the floor.
After an officials review, Thomas was assessed a flagrant foul 2 and summarily tossed with 6:47 remaining in the third quarter.
“I’ve gotten numerous steals like that, going out like that,” Thomas said afterward. “It just happened I hit him in the throat. I apologized right away because I didn’t mean to do that. I’m just glad he’s all right.”
Wiggins accepted the apology and brushed off the contact as unintentional.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said Thomas was “trying to stab for the ball” in order to get a steal. Cleveland, incidentally, had zero steals as a team for the game.
“I don’t think he should’ve been thrown out, but whatever,” Lue added.
Thomas maintained his innocence when it came to intent, but understood the referees’ decision.
“I was surprised because I went for the ball,” he said. “But I know anything around the head is really … especially if it looks bad, you’re going to probably be thrown out. I just made sure he was good, made sure he knew I had no intention of trying to hurt him or hit him in the throat.”
Thomas, who is on a minutes restriction as he plays his first NBA action in 7½ months, did not reach his allotted threshold. He was sent to the locker room after putting up nine points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with three assists in 19 minutes.
Thomas went 0-for-7 in the first half and joined two other Cavs starters, Kevin Love (0-for-6) and JR Smith (0-for-5), in getting blanked in the first two quarters as Cleveland was down by as many as 27 points before the break.
“I just couldn’t make nothing,” Thomas said. “As a team we had just no rhythm on both ends. There’s going to be nights like this. I know that, I’ve been in the league seven years, so I know these types of nights. But we’ve just got to have better energy. It’s tough when you’re getting the shots you want and they’re just not falling. That kind of rubs off on the defensive end. And they were making everything. It was just one of those nights. … One thing about this team, we have a short memory and we always move on to the next one and we figure things out and adjust.”
Wiggins has been a Cavs killer ever since the franchise drafted him No. 1 in 2014 and traded him for Love.
Entering Monday, Wiggins was averaging 29.8 points while shooting 55.8 percent from the field and 51.8 percent from 3 in six career games against Cleveland.
He finished with a team-high 25 points on Monday and added six rebounds.