Los Angeles Lakers' Howard complains about a call to the referee during their NBA game against Toronto Raptors in Toronto

Dwight Howard ejected as Lakers lose to Raptors (VIDEO)


The Lakers lost to the Raptors in Toronto on Sunday by a final of 108-103, dropping them six games under .500 with three teams ahead of them for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles played the entire second half without Dwight Howard, who was ejected with 1:18 to play in the second quarter after getting tangled up with Alan Anderson while battling for position on a free throw attempt from Metta World Peace.

Howard received his first technical of the game in the first quarter, while asking the nearest official for a foul that wasn’t called on one of his shot attempts.

Histrionics from the Lakers broadcasting team aside, this really is the problem with the dreaded double-technical foul call. When the referees lazily refuse to assign blame to one player or another and whistle them both for a foul when either (a) one is clearly at fault, or (b) the play could have gone without a call entirely, this is the unfortunate end result.

There didn’t need to be a call on either player in this situation; a mere warning would have sufficed. Instead, the Lakers were forced to play the second half without one of their main cogs inside, especially defensively.

Howard’s ejection was far from the reason the Lakers lost this one. Kobe Bryant struggled to find his shot for the second straight game, and while he finished with a team-high 26 points, it took him shooting 10-of-32 from the field to do so.

Pau Gasol was granted his wish of returning to the starting lineup, and he responded with a big game offensively, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting in 32 minutes. Earl Clark had another solid game, and finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds off the bench.

Once again, the issues on the defensive end of the floor ultimately doomed the Lakers. They allowed the Raptors — who had lost four straight coming into this one, and shoot just 43.9 precent from the field on the season — to score 52 points in the paint, and shoot close to 55 percent for the game.

Howard may have helped some in that regard, and he needs to do a better job of containing himself when dealing with the referees in order to stay on the floor with his teammates. But the issues are deeper than just one player, and after a couple of wins over some subpar opponents followed by an encouraging battle with the defending champion Heat, the Lakers seem to have regressed a bit, at least for one afternoon.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins
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Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Markieff Morris will be a happy Sun

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After a bumpy season where the he fought with Suns coaches, then a summer where he and his twin Marcus felt they were blindsided by a trade, Markieff Morris has been plenty vocal about his unhappiness in Phoenix. To the point it has cost him some serious cash.

So what should we expect from Markieff Morris’ upcoming season?

Relative calm, I tell Jenna Corrado of NBCSports in this latest edition of PBT Extra previewing the NBA season.

The reasons are twofold. First, he has to realize the Suns aren’t trading him anyway (especially not while he publicly demands a trade, lowering his trade value). Second, can you imagine how new locker room leader Tyson Chandler is going to react to that? Chandler was brought in to fill a leadership void in the locker room, and you can bet he will make his displeasure at such team-disrupting antics known.

Still not sure if that’s enough to get the Suns to the playoffs.