It wasn’t quite the ‘The Malice at the Palace,’ but the altercation between Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka and Chicago Bulls Robin Lopez will be talked about for weeks to come. Although, just maybe, as fighters, Serge and Robin should hang onto their day jobs.
On Tuesday night the Raptors were looking to break an 11 game losing streak against the Bulls and until the 3rd quarter it looked like they were going to make it 12 in a row.
Jimmy Butler hit a three-pointer with just under four minutes left in the third quarter and Ibaka collected the ball. This is when things got heated between the two. Ibaka apparently hit Lopez with an elbow beneath the basket which Lopez was not a fan of and slammed the ball out of Ibaka’s hands. The ol’ one -two punch ensued which resulted in both players being ejected. After the players separated Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire and Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic ‘got into it’ resulting in technicals for both teams.
The NBA announced on Wednesday that both Lopez and Ibaka would get one game suspensions without pay for throwing punches at one another. Magloire was fined a cool $15,000 for pushing Mirotic.
“What happened is we were playing physical basketball and he got frustrated,” said Ibaka postgame. “That thing happened where you just start pushing each other, like always happens when there’s contact, and then he throws a punch. You know, like a man, I had to defend myself. I’m not just going to be out there and watch a man like him punch me and just walk away. I had to defend myself. So that’s what happened.”
As for Lopez’ take, “Things got heated, we exchanged a few words and it kind of went from there. I’m not too surprised that it escalated. It happens sometimes.”
The exchange of punches itself looked more like a fight out of the WWE where they try and make it look like they hit the other wrestler but completely miss. The fight did cause an uproar in the Air Canada Centre. Anyone that could stand in the stadium was standing and were chanting, ‘Let’s Go Raptors.’
“If something like that doesn’t get your energy going and your competitive spirit going than I don’t know what will,” Fred VanVleet said after the game.
Cory Joseph echoed a similar feeling, “It gave us energy. Obviously we didn’t want Serge to fight, but it gave us that spark we needed.”
The fight not only got fans involved, but the team as well. Prior to the fight the Raptors were trailing the entire game, then late into the fourth quarter they went on a 15-0 run and took the game to OT where Toronto sealed the win 122-120.
“It got us going,” DeMar DeRozan said post game. “The crowd got into it, our fans love things like that, especially with it being a hockey city.”
In the locker room the players were talking about the fight just as much as the fans. When Ibaka was giving his postgame scrum Lucas Nogiera yelled, ‘What’s up Mike Tyson.’ A few moments later when DeMar DeRozan was giving his postgame interview you can hear Jonas Valanciunas yelling, ‘Way to fight Serge!’
If anybody was wondering who Robin’s brother and fellow NBA player Brook Lopez was rooting for, it may surprise you, “Maybe we’ll get a grudge match, who knows? I’m pulling for Ibaka, though.”
However, these players should not consider a career change, they would make horrible boxers.
“I don’t think that Serge Ibaka has a malicious bone in his body. He’s a competitor, so is Lopez,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “I don’t think either one of them will go down as ‘Rocky’ or anything like that.”
Fans in a hockey city may be surprised that a “fight” worthy of two minutes for roughing on the ice will result in Ibaka sitting out on Thursday night when the Raptors play the Heat in Miami as he serves a one game suspension. Lopez serves his “fighting” suspension when the Bulls host the Detroit Pistons at United Center.