Going gets a bit too rough for Turiaf

Times Staff Writer

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Lakers can be physical, too, though it cost them in Game 4.

Ronny Turiaf was ejected because of a flagrant foul after sending Ronnie Price crashing to the court on a drive by the Utah guard with 10:07 to go in the second quarter.

Price suffered a cut above the right eye that required four stitches.

The league will automatically review the foul, and a suspension for Game 5 is possible, though not likely, for Turiaf.

Turiaf's exit left the Lakers short-handed at center. DJ Mbenga played an ineffective three minutes -- two fouls and a turnover -- and Pau Gasol was forced to play 47 minutes in the Lakers' 123-115 overtime loss Sunday.

"I want to apologize to my teammates for the result of my foul," Turiaf said. "I was going for a blocked shot and, unfortunately, Ronnie Price is a guard and I am a big guy, and our bodies collided and he fell to the floor. It is very unfortunate the way everybody reacted to it because it was questioning my character."

Turiaf had an important person in his corner, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who said the ejection was "absolutely not" the right call.

"I thought the kid [Price] was out of control when he went in, and Ronny did go up to block the shot, but I thought he entirely played the ball," he said. "I haven't seen a call like that. I was very surprised that he was put out of the ball game."

Jackson said there should not be a suspension for Turiaf, who averaged four points, 1.3 rebounds and 14 minutes in the first three games of the series.

Price said he and Turiaf were friends and indicated there was no malice, saying, "Things happen."

Price went into the locker room to get stitched up after making one of two free throws following the flagrant foul, but he later provided one of Utah's biggest highlights.

In the fourth quarter, Luke Walton coasted in for what looked like a clear layup, but Price caught him at the end and emphatically blocked Walton's shot.

"I saw him slowing down, so I just went for it and got a hand on it," Price said.


Sunday games are a rarity in Utah because of religious reasons, but the crowd wasn't any less pro-Jazz despite a pregame theory that speculated otherwise.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages members to avoid nonreligious activities on Sundays, leading to speculation that Lakers fans would be able to snap up tickets for the game.

The crowd was still overwhelmingly in favor of Utah.

Jackson, however, was irritated by some disparaging anti-Lakers signs held up by Jazz fans as the Lakers' bus approached the arena before the game.

"I would be very concerned if I was living in the Mormon community and the Salt Lake community at the quality of those sings that were out there," he said. "They were rather immoral and probably a little raucous."

The Jazz hadn't played a Sunday game in Utah since January 2001.


Times staff writer Jonathan Abrams contributed to this report.



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