Notes, quotes and observations after the Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors 126-101 Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
1. A quick search on YouTube of Serge Ibaka and fight illustrates the repeat offenses of the Raptors’ 29-year-old power forward/center.
2. In his 10-year career, Ibaka has tangled with Robin Lopez, James Johnson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Matt Barnes, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, just to name a few. According to ESPN.com, Ibaka has been ejected eight times (counting Monday). So his attack of the Cavs’ Marquese Chriss wasn't out of character, although in this case Ibaka suffered the indignity of a whiff while Chriss landed a punch.
3. But a likely suspension, which Raptors coach Nick Nurse conceded, could impact the Raptors’ chances of catching the East-leading Bucks and capturing the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Raptors (48-20) trail the Bucks by 21/2 games. Ibaka entered the night as the Raptors’ third-leading scorer with a 15.2 average.
4. Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry also limped out of town, suffering what Nurse called a mild left ankle sprain. Lowry had no beef about being landed on by the Cavs' David Nwaba; Lowry deemed himself “OK.”
5. For Ibaka and Chriss, the situation turned ugly with the Cavs leading 91-77 with one second remaining in the third quarter. Norman Powell threw a length-of-the-court inbounds pass to Ibaka, who fell in front of the basket when contested by Chriss as the ball sailed out of bounds. Chriss threw up his hands, seemingly trying to show it was a flop instead of a shove, then said something to Ibaka as he walked by him on the floor.
6. Ibaka jumped up, grabbed Chriss around the neck and started to punch hm, briefly pinning Chriss against the stanchion. After review, both players were ejected and escorted out, Chriss clapping as he headed to the locker room.
7. Cavs coach Larry Drew said the referee told him Chriss had also thrown a punch, which brings an automatic ejection, even though Ibaka was clearly the aggressor.
8. Asked what Chriss should have done, Drew said, “I don’t condone fighting at all, but I think if somebody comes at you, you have the right to defend yourself. I have to go back and look at the tape to see exactly what happened, but I don’t believe there’s a place in our game for fighting. But in the heat of the moment I understand that things do happen. If you get in a situation where clearly you’re being attacked, your natural instinct is going to be to defend yourself.”
9. Ibaka and Chriss left their post-game locker rooms before speaking to the media. According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, Ibaka said through a team spokesman that he reacted to something Chriss said while he was lying on the court.
10. Comments from the Raptors’ locker room made it sound like they had all been sworn to secrecy.
11. Raptors coach Nick Nurse said he saw very little.
12. “We threw the long pass and I just saw them get tangled up down there and obviously Serge went down on the pass,” Nurse said. “Again I didn’t see what happened from there. I was kind of looking back to see. The ball was going to come back this way, and I was trying to look at the defense and get that set and all that stuff. I didn’t see much of it to be honest.”
13. Nurse said he spoke to Ibaka, but didn’t ask him what happened.
14. “I didn’t know if there were any punches landed or any of that kind of stuff. I just wanted to make sure physically he was OK,” Nurse said. “He seemed fine.”
15. Asked if he was concerned Ibaka may be suspended for a while, Nurse said, “I mean listen, it’s always going to be concerning. We don’t certainly want that in the game. It’s going to cost him a game, probably, right? It usually does when there’s an altercation like that and we don’t want that. We don’t want to lose one of our guys for incidents like that, whether it’s Serge or anybody.”
16. The incidents with Lopez and Johnson came a year ago when Ibaka was with the Raptors and resulted in one-game suspensions each time. Punches were thrown in both.
17. Nurse was about as enlightening as Lowry, who said, “What Ibaka thing? What happened? Oh, I ain’t seen it.”
18. At least Kawhi Leonard made an attempt at honesty.
19. “I guess they got tangled up,” Leonard said. “I can’t really make a comment on how or why they got into a fist fight. But I mean both guys were competing out there and I don’t know where it started. I really didn’t get to see it until the last five seconds left.”
20. To be fair, the Cavs’ Kevin Love and Drew didn't see much, either.
21. “I saw it out of the corner of my eye,” Love said. “I was at the 3-point line, trying to get LD’s attention because I thought we were going to run a play right before the end of the third quarter and then I saw the commotion going on. It happened so fast, everybody almost wants to run out there and take a look at what’s going on. It was broken up quick and that’s usually how it goes.”
22. The league could also take action against Chriss, who has a history of technical fouls and, according to ESPN.com, three career ejections. When Chriss played for the Suns last season, he was suspended one game for a verbal altercation with the team’s strength coach.
23. How the fracas affected both teams was surprising. Instead of igniting the Raptors, they fell apart and the Cavs took control.
24. “You never want to see that, but I think the fact that we kept our focus and kept our foot on the gas was key in tonight’s win,” Love said of the fight and its consequences. “I looked at our coaching staff and as far as half-court defense, this might have been one of our best games of the season.”
25. Drew said Ibaka’s explosion “kinda juiced” up his team. The Cavs pushed their lead to 17 with 9:22 remaining and were ahead by 20 with 6:27 to go.
26. “We got into a situation where we were trading a lot of baskets in that third quarter, but I thought it kinda ignited us,” Drew said. “I thought we got a little bit more aggressive, we stayed in the attack mode. I’ve seen those type situations work against you as well, but I’m very happy that it didn’t work against us. I thought our guys responded very well.”
27. The incident obscured what Drew called rookie point guard Collin Sexton’s most complete game of the season. Sexton scored 28 points, one shy of his career-high. He hit 10-of-18 from the field, 4-of-7 from 3-point range and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. He added four rebounds and five assists and did not commit a turnover in 36 minutes.
28. “I really thought tonight was probably as complete of a game as I’ve seen Collin play in regards to him scoring, getting us into an offense and his decision-making,” Drew said. “I thought Collin did another good job as far as mixing up penetration, whether to finish or get into the paint and make the kick-out. I thought defensively he did a really good job. He was in the right spots a lot tonight.”
29. When Sexton was told what Drew said, he agreed.
30. “I think so, well at least one of them,” Sexton said. “I feel like tonight, I made sure I took care of the ball, that was the biggest thing. I don’t think I had a turnover tonight and I made sure that my teammates were open. When they’re open, I have to make sure I give them the ball on time and on target.”
31. Love pointed out an example of how much Sexton has grown. Sexton scored just nine points with no assists and four turnovers playing nearly 18 minutes in his NBA debut at Toronto on Oct. 17.
32. “There was a play where we he pushed it up the court, had them on their heels, saw he didn’t have numbers, backed it out,” Love said. “It was me and Big Z (Ante Zizic) at the top. He passed it to me, Z set the screen for me, I hit the 3 and I definitely commended him for that.
33. “That’s a big growth area because he might’ve pushed it and tried to force a shot when he got in the paint and guys were converging, but he backed out, found the next man and we were able to get a great shot off of that. Shows his maturation this year. Continues to get better, finds the right shots, finds the right passes and that’s what we need out of him. Keep going.”
34. Love also found a moment of personal glory, when he finally connected on one of his trademark touchdown passes to Cedi Osman with 6:27 to go. Love went crazy afterward, holding up one finger, because he knew his playing time was limited; he was subbed out with 2:11 remaining.
35. “Think I was like 0-for-20 this season. I was holding up the one because I have the one conversion before I got out of this game,” Love said. “I don’t know how many games I’ve been back, but I’ve been terrible at the conversion rate. My QBR is sh-- right now.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.