Howard was ejected with 4:03 remaining in the third quarter against the Boston Celtics when he received his second technical foul of the game, for taunting, after pulling himself up on the rim following an emphatic dunk.
However, the league said later Monday night that Howard should not have been tossed for hanging on the rim. The league said the technical foul should have been ruled “non-unsportsmanlike” and should not have counted toward an automatic ejection.
Howard finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes.
“Despite me getting kicked out, I think guys really stepped up and played great; it was a good team win,” Howard said before the NBA’s statement on his ejection. “I apologized to the guys and told them I need to do a better job of keeping my composure and some other things, and they understood.”
Howard showered Boston with praise despite hearing boos from the fans for most of the night.
“Boston’s a great place to play,” he said. “I have had some battles here with Kevin Garnett and those guys. Despite the boos, it’s a great place to play.”
Howard received his first technical foul of the night when he shoved Al Horford in the chest earlier in the third quarter. Howard, who had just tackled Isaiah Thomas by his neck trying to give a foul, took umbrage with Horford wrapping him up while going up for a dunk around the basket.
After the whistle, Howard walked over to Horford and shoved him with one arm in the chest. The typically stoic Horford was steamed after the sequence.
The Hawks led 74-64 when Howard was ejected, and Boston didn’t get any momentum from his exit.
“I thought [the Hawks] gathered themselves and decided we needed to keep this thing going,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think Dwight got us to that point. He was a huge part of getting the 10-point lead. I think we just wanted to bring it home for him and for all of us.”
Added Budenholzer: “We want to bring an edge to the game. I think we can be smarter and not pick up techs. When Dwight’s playing like that, we love to have him for 40 minutes. Hanging on the rim, I guess, it’s just the emotion of the moment.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
League: Dwight Howard shouldn’t have been ejected from Hawks’ win – ESPN