Missing two starters and on the second night of a back-to-back, it’s no surprise that the Toronto Raptors came out flat against the Los Angeles Lakers last night. And when OG Anunoby and Denis Schroder got tangled up and Anunoby got tossed? Well, it was all downhill from there (until the patented Raptors fake fourth-quarter comeback, anyway).
Since there isn’t too much to takeaway, let’s break down the brouhaha, shall we?
1. What was OG Anunoby Doing?
It’s impossible to judge what’s going through anyone’s mind at a time like that. OG had just gotten clobbered and he and Shcroder were tangled up. At first glance, it looked to me Anuoby simply stood up straight too fast, with his left arm still around Schroder’s leg, and that’s what caused Schroder to fall. No harm intended, right.
But on second glance… OG brings his right arm over and that’s what he uses to actually lift Schroder’s left leg off the ground.
That seems… pretty intentional! Again, you can’t really ascribe motive in the middle of a scramble like that, but that second replay seems to tell me that some punishment was warranted. I might have simply gone with one technical foul, as opposed to full ejection, but, in the NBA in 2021, well, the ejection isn’t entirely surprising or undeserved.
2. Seriously, Montrezl?
There’s always one guy who comes in like a bulldozer ready to throw hands with anyone and anything, who invariably ends up escalating things. Shocklingly, it wasn’t Markieff Morris! It was Montrezl Harrell, who slammed into Gary Trent Jr. as Trent tried to help Schroder up and then looked ready to take it the next level before Aron Baynes, of all people, calmed him down.
Schroder was, understandably, pissed. But I think without Harrell storming in things could have calmed down a lot quicker. All Harrell ended up doing was getting himself ejected. As with Anunoby, I probably would have just hit him with a T instead of the full toss. but if you’re gonna toss OG, then Harrell’s ejection is also warranted — he escalated things unnecessarily.
3. How did Denis Schroder get off scott-free?
In live action, it seemed like Schroder’s hard foul that started things off was at least a flagrant-1. He hit OG pretty hard! But after watching the multiple replays, I think I agree with Jack Armstrong, who said that Schroder made a clean attempt on the ball and was legitimately truing to stop Anunoby from scoring an easy bucket.
Not only that, it seems like Schroder was actively trying to stop Anunoby’s momentum and keep OG from crashing to the floor. I’m not a Schroder guy and never have been — I’m glad the Raptors didn’t acquire him at the deadline — but I don’t think he deserved to get body slammed last night. And he didn’t get a flagrant-1 for the original foul either, and I think that’s the right non-call.
4. GTJ 4Lyfe
As noted, at first it seemed like Gary Trent Jr. was simply trying to help Schroder up and wasn’t looking for any smoke. But once Harrell barrelled in, Trent was ready to bring it! It was great to see Trent standing up for his teammate, who he’s only known for two weeks, without backing down.
Sports are funny like that. You have no connection or chemistry with a team or a group of people one day, then a trade happens and suddenly you’re ready to fight for them! Much respect for Trent for not being afraid to get in the middle of things.
Shoutout to Aron Baynes for using his size for good for once, and to rookie Malachi Flynn for getting in there to protect his teammates. Props as always to John Altilia, the Raptors head of security, for getting right in there as well. But you know who shouldn’t have been anywhere near the action? Fred VanVleet.
5. Uh, Freddy
Surely a suspension is coming for Fred VanVleet, right? VanVleet, who wasn’t dressed, came from the Raptors bench to get into the mix last night, and while he was doing nothing more than play peacemaker, that’s a no-no in the NBA; players who leave the bench area are always suspended. Fred’s time off for his hip injury might be extended by an extra game, now.
You can see DeAndre’ Bembry creeping over as well, and while he doesn’t actually get into the tangle, he’s pretty far off the bench area — all the way under the basket.
If Bembry also gets suspended, that would leave the Raptors with only eight players for their next game, which is Thursday. Now, the Raptors are required to sign another player by then to get back up the league-minimum roster size, but even then, that player might not be ready to play or might need to enter a quarantine period.
In other words: Thursday’s game against the new-look Bulls might be an ugly one.
Beyond the fight and the potential implications it might have for Thursday, last night’s game was pretty forgettable. Most of the stars sat out, Pascal Siakam was flat, and the Lakers led by double digits for all but the first six minutes and the last 12 seconds. But it’s nice Phil Handy got his ring, and that Marc Gasol had a good game in what’s been a tough season for him, that Malachi Flynn got more development time and that Anunoby and Trent continue building a bond that hopefully turns into a long tenure in Toronto the two of them.