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Al Horford delivered elbow to 'protect our team,' teammate says

Horford was ejected in the second quarter for throwing an elbow at Matthew Dellavedova after he crashed into his legs.

None of the Hawks called Matthew Dellavedova "dirty" on Sunday after Game 3, but Al Horford and several others described his play as reckless.

Horford was ejected from the game in the second quarter after falling on top of Dellavedova and throwing an elbow at him in the process, moments after Dellavedova's dive for a loose ball brought him crashing into Horford's legs.

"We're out there competing," Horford said. "But he's gotta learn, I mean he's only been in this league for a couple of years or whatever, but he's gotta learn that at the end of the day it's a big brotherhood here. Guys look out for each other and, I don't think that it was malicious, but he's gotta learn."

Horford continued: "Maybe it wasn't on purpose. But, you know, with his track record, I just felt like it was."

This was the third time in two weeks Dellavedova had been involved in a borderline play. Taj Gibson was ejected for kicking Dellavedova after he locked legs and Kyle Korver is done for the postseason after Dellavedova ran into his leg on a loose ball.

DeMarre Carroll said Horford did "what he thought was necessary to protect" the team. As for Dellavedova, he said he was pulled down by Horford attempting to box out.

"I would obviously disagree with that, I was boxing him out," he told reporters after the game. "You can see from the baseline view that he's pulling my arm."

Here's DeMarre Carroll's full answer.

"I really didn't see too much, but then I looked at the replay. I just seen Dellavedova diving. You know, he did it to Kyle. He's one of our starters and he gotta have surgery, he's out 4-6 months. And he did it to Al. I think Al said, 'Enough of this.' And he did what he did.

I think he's just competitive, man. Sometimes when you compete so hard, you can take it overboard. So, there's gotta be a fine line between competing and being crazy. You know, Al just did what he thought was necessary to protect our team and make a stand. And he got threw out.

In the game of basketball, it's OK to dive for a loose ball, but when you dive at peoples' feet, nothing but bad things are going to happen."

The NBA officials all stood by Horford's ejection. All three officials and an alternate agreed with the call, according to several reporters after the game.

This was the official reasoning given for the call.

When asked about the play by Rachel Nichols during their in-game interview before the fourth quarter, David Blatt wholeheartedly defended Dellavedova.

"There is a pattern of behavior," Blatt said. "He plays very hard, he plays very tough, but very cleanly."

LeBron James also defended his teammate.

"We're not trying to get people hurt," James said. "But you play to win the game and you play aggressively. This guy, he works his tails off every single day. He beats the odds and he comes to play as hard as he can every single night. If they're focusing on Delly, they're focusing on the wrong thing."

The NBA will make a decision on Monday whether Al Horford's flagrant two warrants an additional one-game suspension, something that can accompany the foul.

SB Nation presents: As the playoffs intensify, so do the fights