The NBA suspended Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez and Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka one game each for an on-court altercation during Toronto’s 122-120 overtime win on Tuesday, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire was also fined $15,000 for pushing Bulls’ forward Nikola Mirotic during the scuffle.
In the third quarter, Lopez and Ibaka exchanged punches after tempers flared during a physical battle on the boards. Ibaka nudged Lopez with an elbow and Lopez retaliating by swiping the ball out of Ibaka’s hands during a dead play. The two then had to be separated and restrained.
Lopez threw the first punch and Ibaka responded with a jab of his own. Neither punch made direct contact. The two were immediately ejected.
Robin Lopez and Serge Ibaka suspended one game for throwing punches. pic.twitter.com/4BDkl18qDN— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) March 22, 2017
Ibaka told reporters after the game he acted in self-defense and hopes the NBA can work to diffuse those situations in the future before they escalate.
“Like a man, I had to defend myself,” Ibaka said, via the Raptors. “I’m not just gonna be out there and watch a man hit me and just walk away. I had to defend myself so that’s what happened.
“You never know, things happen. I was just ready to protect myself. He threw the first punch. I had to do something.”
The fourth-seeded Raptors are 4.5 games ahead of the No. 5 Atlanta Hawks, so losing Ibaka through the regular season won’t hurt their odds at home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Chicago's Robin Lopez loses $120,715 in his one-game suspension without pay ... Toronto's Serge Ibaka loses $111,364— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) March 22, 2017
But losing Lopez will kill the Bulls’ chances at making a push
As it stands, Chicago is 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 33-38 record. The Bulls are two games behind the Miami Heat (35-36) for the eighth seed in the playoff hunt and have only 11 games left on the schedule. Four of those games are against playoff opponents.
Missing Lopez for a critical conference matchup against the Detroit Pistons costs Chicago its their defensive anchor and rim-protector as well as a reliable option from mid-range and in. The only other bigs on the Bulls’ roster are the undersized Cristiano Felicio, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Bobby Portis.