Robin Lopez and Serge Ibaka seem like relatively laid back guys, but one little bump in the back sent the two at each other on Tuesday night. Both sent actual fists flying, and the result for the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors was an unpleasant one: Lopez and Ibaka were ejected.
The incident occurred during the third quarter of the game in Toronto. After a made bucket, both Lopez and Ibaka could be seen shoving each other a bit. Lopez turned to face Ibaka, swatted at the ball, and the two went after it.
It’s unclear what set Lopez off, but if I wanted to wager a guess it would be that he didn’t like Ibaka giving him a chicken wing in his lower back. Lopez tries to manage that area of his body delicately, and can often be seen between quarters laying flat on the floor near the corner of the bench, much like Steve Nash used to do.
Of course, who started it is another question. Lopez can be seen giving a hard box out on Ibaka well after the ball is through the basket, so Ibaka’s retaliation makes a little sense.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic got into it with a Raptors assistant coach:
The Rockets still just have to win one of the next two games to advance to the NBA Finals, and one of those is at home. However, without CP3 a couple of things need to happen. James Harden needs to find his shooting stroke. Gerald Green and the Rockets’ bench needs to step up. And Houston has to keep defending the way they have the last two games.
It’s not going to be easy (especially on the road in Game 6), but the Rockets still have a real opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals.
George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.
Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.
And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.
LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7
We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).
Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.
LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.
“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”
LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.
George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.
Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.
Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)
Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.
Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.
Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.
Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.
“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.
Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half
There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.
And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.