Jazz’s John Collins reaches for neck of Bulls assistant coach who shoved him during scuffle

SALT LAKE CITY — A skirmish broke out near the conclusion of the Chicago Bulls’ road victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.

The fracas began after Jazz guard Collin Sexton fouled DeMar DeRozan with nine seconds remaining and Utah trailing by one. Following the foul, Sexton and injured Bulls forward Torrey Craig began exchanging words in front of the Bulls’ bench, causing tempers to flare.

Things escalated when Jazz forward John Collins and Bulls assistant coach Chris Fleming got into a brief shoving match. Video replays showed Fleming initiating contact with Collins, who then appeared to reach near Fleming’s throat before being restrained and separated.

“I ran over. I’m standing there. And the coach comes over and just shoves me for no reason,” Collins said. “Y’all can go watch the film. And I just protected myself. I’m literally just standing there, and the dude puts a forearm in my chest and is pushing me back. So I don’t know. He needs some more self-control. But it’s whatever. I don’t know what to say about that. That was weird.”

A technical foul was called on Craig, while Collins and Fleming were whistled for a double-technical.

Multiple other players flocked to the incident, along with team security, but it was unclear whether other players intended to break things up or escalate matters further.

“What it appeared to me is I saw DeMar get fouled,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t know if he was grabbing his face or holding his face. I think Torrey said something. They obviously came over. Chris Fleming, I think, was trying to hold everybody off to kind of separate. And then from there, it just kind of escalated and I was trying to get everybody else out. At that point, I just stepped in to kind of break it up a little bit.”

Donovan classified Wednesday’s game as a playoff-like contest despite both teams being without multiple key contributors to injuries.

The Bulls, playing the second of a four-game road trip, controlled the contest for much of the night. But the Jazz, losers of 12 of their past 16, refused to go away quietly. Each time the Bulls built a double-digit lead, Utah stormed back. After the scuffle, Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson made a technical foul shot to tie the game at 117-117.

“I don’t look at it from a Utah situation at all,” Donovan said. “I look at it from our situation. And we’ve got to be better in those moments, in my opinion. Because not only did we lose a point on a technical foul. We also iced our free throw shooter. And I give DeMar a lot of credit for being mentally tough enough. I understand the emotion and intensity of games. But at the same point too, whether it’s complaining or upset or frustrated, it’s not helping anything. And we’ve got to be able to do a better job than that all the way around. And I’m not just saying the players. On the bench. Everybody. We’ve got to be better in those moments.”

DeRozan made both free throws following a lengthy official’s review to put the Bulls ahead at 119-117. Clarkson and Sexton both missed go-ahead 3-pointers in the final eight seconds.

“I was just hoping and praying that it wasn’t the worst outcome as far as them getting multiple free throws,” DeRozan said. “Taking the lead, just the shift of the game changing because of a little scuffle. Anything could have happened.”

It was the second and final meeting between the two teams. Chicago swept the series, beating the Jazz by 17 in Chicago in early November.

Collins, however, said Wednesday showed Utah’s competitiveness.

“We’re not going to lay down for anybody,” Collins said. “We’re going to compete our asses off any time we can. And we want to win. There’s not any losers in this locker room.”

But his run-in with Fleming was a first.

“I’ve chatted against some coaches,” Collins said. “But I’ve never had a coach touch me like that. That was a first.

“A coach touching me is unacceptable.”

(Photo: Alex Goodlett / Getty Images)

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