By Ben Golliver
With a little less than four seconds remaining in the second quarter and the Pistons leading 58-46, Thomas attacked the paint, where Villanueva was waiting to deliver a right elbow. Villanueva's blow appeared to hit Thomas's left arm and was delivered in an upward manner in the general direction of Thomas' head; the force of the hit sent Thomas crashing to the court. Thomas immediately took exception, hopping up off the floor to confront Villanueva, who shoved him away. Villanueva was assessed a flagrant foul 2, a designation that applies for fouls the referees deem as "unnecessary and excessive" and which requires an automatic ejection.
Thomas took exception to the play in postgame comments to the Sacramento Bee.
"No, it was just the fact that it was a dirty play and he's a dirty player," Thomas said. "It is what it is. He got kicked out of the game, so it wasn't nothing big. A lot of guys do stuff like that knowing you can't really fight in this league, so it's all right."
Like all flagrant fouls, Villanueva's was reviewed by the NBA league office, which has the authority to tack on an additional suspension or fine. In this case, as noted on Tuesday night, Villanueva's foul likely did not warrant an additional suspension because he didn't appear to cleanly and directly strike Thomas in the head or neck, Thomas was able to continue playing and the foul did not lead to any serious pushing or shoving afterwards.
The Pistons went on to win the game 103-97. Villanueva departed with nine points, one rebound, one assist, one steal and one block in 11 minutes. Thomas finished with 12 points, two rebounds, two assists and one steals in 26 minutes.
Last week, Lakers center Dwight Howard was called for a flagrant foul 2 after hitting Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried in the face. He was later assessed a $35,000 fine for the hit but he was not suspended, so Villanueva got off a bit easier. Villanueva, 28, is averaging 8.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game this season and is earning $8.06 million per year.