ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Los Angeles Lakers were perplexed as to why Jared Dudley's role in a fourth-quarter shoving match in the team's 96-87 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night warranted an ejection.
However, they were impressed he stuck up for teammate Dwight Howard nonetheless.
"I mean, that's all it takes to get ejected? These days? Little shove?" LeBron James said after the game. "I've seen a lot more than that. But 'Duds' will do whatever. He told you guys at media day his job is to come in here if somebody goes crazy, do something crazy to me or AD [Anthony Davis] or whoever on the team, he's going to be the muscle."
Dudley sprang into action with 7:06 remaining in the fourth quarter after Howard was fouled by Jonathan Isaac under the basket and started jostling with several Magic players after the whistle.
"It was multiple guys and it was getting chippy already with fouls not being called both ways, then pushing someone in the back, just a push," Dudley said of his involvement. "I thought it should be a double tech, but they wanted to eject, they eject, not that big of a deal.
"Not just me, you've got to stand up for your guys. Sometimes it's pushing, sometimes it's a hard foul, sometimes it's whatever you have to do. This time it was just a push. I couldn't really get to him, too, so I just pushed the pile and make sure everybody moves."
"I thought that was kind of bogus that we both got techs for showing some emotion," Howard said. "This is the game we love, we should be allowed to show some emotions. [It's] not like we're out here trying to fight or do anything crazy."
The mini-skirmish started with Howard pointing his elbow in Magic big man Mo Bamba's chest after Isaac fouled him. It also came at a time when the Magic had whittled the Lakers' 24-point lead down to seven.
Howard admitted he played a role in instigating the situation.
"Wasn't nothing going on, trying to ruffle the game up a little bit, get their minds off winning the game or trying to win, and it worked," Howard said.
Even if Howard was the provocateur, Dudley felt justified in his response.
"I don't care if my teammate's in the wrong or not," Dudley said. "It's like if you have a son, if you have kids at home, and they're in trouble, you'll stand up for your son regardless of [whether] if it's a teacher going at him, it's my son. And if it's my teammate just, you know, going to keep it like that [the same way]."
The ejection cut short a strong night for Dudley, who had nine points on 3-for-5 shooting and two rebounds in 21 minutes, getting his number called with Kyle Kuzma (ankle) and Rajon Rondo (hamstring) both out for the night.
"He knows his role," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. "Knows that he's not going to play always on a night-to-night basis but when he's needed, he's going to come in and produce. He was a plus-16 for the game, knocked down three 3s, stood up for some teammates, got himself run out of here [by the refs]. And he was pivotal in the win."