Of the couple thousand games that will have been played by the time this wretched hell season mercifully ends in the dead of summer, Tuesday’s Raptors-Lakers shit show just might go down as the 48 minutes that best represent what the NBA in 2021 was all about.
This game, like the lion’s share of rest of the games we’ve seen since December, was terrible — the sort of game I’d kind of judge you for watching to its conclusion unless you were doing it for work purposes.
Even before it began, this match-up, which should have been a showdown between the league’s two most recent champions, was doomed to depress. LeBron James, Kyle Lowry, Anthony Davis and Fred VanVleet highlighted the injury report that ran into double digits after combining those missing for both teams. It was a back-to-back for Toronto as well, because everything is a back-to-back now. This game was fake from the outset.
For about 10 minutes, however, the game did sort of resemble real basketball. An extremely wretched defensive start for Toronto gave way to a Big Daddy Marc Gasol revenge quarter in his first game against his old team. In just over six minutes before taking his first rest of the game, Gasol put up a 9-5-2 line on 4-of-5 shooting, extending the season long streak of opponents making Raptors fans feel envious about their center play.
And then, with a couple minutes to play in the first, the only truly noteworthy event of the night:
The Lakers and Raptors had to be separated after a physical play between Dennis Schröder and OG Anunoby.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 7, 2021
Anunoby and Montrezl Harrell were ejected from the game. pic.twitter.com/hBNxjGyWWv
This skirmish had more points of interest than the rest of this game combined.
For one, that Dennis Schroeder foul while technically a basketball play, should not be considered a basketball play, because it erased the coolest of all basketball plays, the noble slam dunk. The league should consider ruling dunk-thwarting bear hugs to not be basketball plays.
Secondly, we need to remark upon OG Anunoby’s strength. This man wielded another grown ass man like a claymore in the middle of a basketball game. I almost think Schroeder avoided an ejection because the officials deemed the shame of being lifted like bare deadlift bar was enough to put him in check.
Third, it took exactly 6.2 games for Gary Trent Jr. to prove his loyalty to his new pals. He’s not even sure who he’s yelling at in this scrum. He’s just there to support OG, who very clearly could handle himself just fine in this instance. Gary Trent Jr. is a prince.
And lastly, on a more serious note, it’s absurd that Anunoby and Montrezl Harrell were ejected for this one. Technicals, sure. A flagrant for OG? Yeah, probably. Lifting a man up like he’s a wittle-ittle baby is, I suppose, not a basketball play. But officials need to show some discretion, man. This was already a barely compelling game due to the many high profile absences. It didn’t look like Anunoby was out there trying to hurt Schroeder — it may actually be a case of a dude simply not realizing his own ridiculous strength. He even gently let him down after realizing there was an upside-down person in his grasp. Instead of booting two more big names from a game that was already a textbook example of the miserably bad product the NBA’s been content to throw out all year, a good crew would have slapped everyone’s wrists and moved on. Instead, the Raptors were right back where they were a month ago: playing short-handed, and without three of their four most important players. The Lakers had their absences too, of course, but there’s no doubt who got the worst of the double ejections.
38 more minutes of basketball happened after the fight. The Raptors actually won them by five points because apparently fighting rallies the troops in both hockey and basketball. Malachi Flynn played some nice defense, Chris Boucher scored a bit, and Pascal Siakam had a tough night on account of the Lakers collapsing in and ignoring at least three Raptors at all times whenever he touched the ball. That part doesn’t really matter.
The only real takeaway from this game as that this season needs to end already. No one, save for like four teams, is having any fun. Full health doesn’t exist. It’s been six games now since the Raptors saw an opponent that wasn’t totally decimated, all the while they’ve been hovering between having eight and 11 available guys themselves. If at any point you’re searching for an accurate depiction of the 2021 season, the standings aren’t going to show it to you. Tuesday’s Raptors loss to the Lakers sure as hell will, though.