To quote the titular character of “Anchorman,”: “That escalated quickly.” A battle for position between the Raptors’ Serge Ibaka and the Cavaliers’ Marquese Chriss suddenly turned into a brawl on Monday, with the two players ejected from the game.
Ibaka initiated the contact in an incident that occurred with one second to go in the third quarter of what would become a 126-101 Cleveland home win. From his own baseline, Toronto’s Norman Powell tried to hit Ibaka with a long pass, but Ibaka fell to the floor as he and Chriss got tangled.
While Ibaka was lying on the court, Chriss shot him a look and may have said something that the Raptors forward found inflammatory. Ibaka leaped up and went after his antagonist, who was walking away,grabbing Chriss near the throat and pushing him into the basket stanchion before the two threw punches at each other, few of which appeared to land.
A Raptors officials said after the game that Ibaka was, indeed, reacting to something Chriss said, but the Toronto veteran is likely to receive a lengthy suspension. He has a bit of a history, having mixed it up in the past with opponents such as the Heat’s James Johnson and the Bulls’ Robin Lopez.
Neither Ibaka nor Chriss spoke with the media after Monday’s game, but Raptors Coach Nick Nurse said, “Listen, it’s always going to be concerning when something like that happens. We certainly don’t want that in our game. We don’t want to lose one of our guys.”
“I saw it out of the corner of my eye,” the Cavs’ Kevin Love said. “It happened so fast. Everybody almost wants to run out there and check what’s going on. It was broken up quick. That’s usually how it goes.”
Love agreed with a suggestion (via cleveland.com) that Cleveland’s dominance over Toronto in recent playoff series might have been a factor, with Ibaka possibly releasing some pent-up frustration. “That might have been exactly what it was,” Love said.
Chriss is likely also facing a suspension, but some members of his team wondered what he was supposed to do in that situation. “I mean, I don’t condone fighting at all, but I think if somebody comes at you, you have the right to defend yourself,” Cavs Coach Larry Drew said.
“I have to go back and look at the tape to see exactly what happened, but I don’t believe there’s a place in our game for fighting,” Drew continued. “In the heat of the moment I understand that things do happen. If you get in a situation where clearly you’re being attacked, your natural instinct is going to be to defend yourself.”
Read more from The Post: