For the record, having a Raptors team that is not afraid to fight, or not intimidated by the threat of fighting, is generally a good thing. As others have pointed out, the Raptors have often been one of the softer teams in the NBA over the past decade or so. (No one was particularly scared of, say, Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh, or T.J. Ford — big surprise.) The latest iteration, stacked as it is with legit tough guys like P.J. Tucker, DeMar DeRozan (of whom Vince Staples is a big fan), and Serge Ibaka, are not to be messed with.
And yet, they’ve been getting messed with a bit lately!
First, there was the surprising ruckus between Ibaka and Robin Lopez in the Raptors/Bulls OT game from two weeks ago. That was a fun moment that fortunately did not do any lasting damage (except to Ibaka’s bank account). The Raptors got a bit fired up and eventually won the game, and then won the game from which Ibaka was suspended. All in all, good times.
With that still fresh in our minds, last night against the Pacers, the Raptors didn’t care for Lance Stephenson’s lazy drive to the basket as the clock expired. They did not care for it one bit.
Now, many would consider what Stephenson did a bush league move. And look, I get that. But I also happen to subscribe to what Deadspin writer Albert Burneko believes, which is, principally, if you don’t want to get embarrassed in an NBA game, don’t let the other team run away with the score. In the situation there, the Wizards complained because JaVale McGee, of all people, felt he was cleared to try a three point attempt late in a blowout. Brandon Jennings didn’t like it, and pushed McGee as he shot. I love when teams dunk on the Wizards, and I loved watching the Wizards get embarrassed. But now a similar thing has happened to the Raptors and we should admit that the unwritten rule here is, like most unwritten rules, fairly dumb. Sorry.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow. The Raptors were up by 19 points, let Indiana get back into it, and then were definitely pissed off at the Pacers (but really, themselves). Lance Stephenson, a noted space cadet, did a classic space cadet thing and got carried away with the moment. (He later apologized, if that’s any comfort.) I get that it sucks to lose, and I get that it sucks to lose to Stephenson, but the complaint here does not suddenly make the Raptors look tough and menacing. It makes them look like sore losers (one could even use the word “crybaby” but I won’t do that to P.J. Tucker, who could tuck me into a grave on the court if he so chose).
Hopefully, the ill will from this game has been put to bed, and the next time the Raptors get a lead over a demonstrably shit-ass team like the Pacers, they will hold said lead and not put themselves in this situation. They play the Detroit Pistons tonight, so no time like the present to get the job done. Because yes, losing sucks, but under no circumstances should you let Lance gotdamn Stephenson (or anyone else of his calibre, really) get to you like that.
And remember, no team is quite immune from a last second moment in the sun.