Lopez will miss Wednesday’s game with playoff implications against the Detroit Pistons.
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 Jamal Maagloire 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 and Ibaka throwing punches pic.twitter.com/CMe51Fe8Bq
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) March 22, 2017
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.
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. They 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 is the undersized Cristiano Felicio, Joffrey Lauvergne and Bobby Portis.