Lakers question late-game ejections in 99-92 loss to Clippers
In what perfectly epitomized the Lakers' frustration, the Clippers' intensity and the game's overall chippiness, the Lakers' 99-92 loss to the Clippers on Sunday at Staples Center concluded with a string of ejections that left the Lakers fuming.
With 5.7 seconds left in the game and Randy Foye shooting the second of two free throws, the Clippers' Blake Griffin positioned himself rather physically in front of Lakers forward Lamar Odom to get the rebound. In return, Odom tugged on Griffin's jersey and continued to do so after Foye made the free throw, giving the Clippers a 99-90 lead. After Odom jawed at Griffin, the Clippers forward put his hands up to indicate that he didn't want the altercation to escalate.
That didn't stop Clippers guard Baron Davis from running cross-court, however. He entered the fray to separate Odom from Griffin, pushing Odom slightly away from his teammates. Odom then put his hands on Davis' arm, prompting Lakers forward Ron Artest to pull Odom away.
The sequence resulted in the ejections of Odom, Artest, Griffin and Davis, rulings by the referees that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson strongly questioned after the game.
"I don't know how they make their decisions -- whimsically, I think," Jackson said. "I can see Lamar and Griffin or whatever. But Ron -- that was ridiculous whyever Ron was out."
Moments later in the locker room, Odom acknowledged that his jersey tug was inappropriate, but he questioned why Griffin was being so physical with the result of the game all but official and why Davis felt it was necessary to intervene. Odom contended that a fight would not have broken out.
"The problem started with me and Blake Griffin," Odom said. "Maybe I overreacted. But I feel like if you're up nine with the free throws going through and then ram me in the back at that point? Any other time, I get it. You play hard and strong, whatever. But to ram me in the back when you're up nine, I just don't get it. I'm going to have to react.
"It's that play," Odom continued. "You're up nine, you got it. I'm not saying you got to stop playing hard. But if you ram me in my back, you're going to get a reaction out of it. There's nothing we could do. We got to take it out, call time out. Without the ram, if we get it and dribble up, we can't score nine points in five seconds. The game is pretty much over. If you're going to ram me in my back, you're going to get a reaction. I don't feel like anybody should've gotten ejected. Nobody did nothing and threw a punch."
Jackson offered a similar view about what prompted Odom to tug on Griffin's jersey and yell at him.
"He was just running up the guy's back," Jackson said of Griffin. "The guys get eventually tired of it. Piling on top of him and he just said, 'Hey, you know, stop it.' " But when asked whether Odom's reaction was appropriate and justified, Jackson simply said, "Ask Lamar. Don't ask me."
The reaction to Artest's ejection was another story. After the Lakers' 109-87 victory over the New York Knicks on Jan. 9, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant argued that officials have a bias against Artest, though Artest avoided an ejection in that game despite putting a hand on Shawne Williams' throat and clotheslining Amare Stoudemire, with the latter action earning Artest a flagrant foul 1.
"Ron is tough," Bryant said at the time. "It's just a fine line with him because you don't know where he stands with the officiating. It's tough for him to be physical. A play that Steve Blake makes, a physical play that Ron Artest makes might get him ejected or suspended. He walks a very fine line in this league."
When a reporter revisited those comments Sunday and asked whether Jackson agreed with Bryant's assessment in general terms, Jackson said, "No doubt about it."
Despite replays showing Artest with a confused and surprised reaction to the ejection, he said multiple times that he didn't remember the incident.
"I don't remember that," Artest said. "I don't remember that. I don't remember what happened."
What was his perspective on what led to the ejection?
"I don't have perspective."
But is it fair to say he appeared surprised and confused by it?
"I don't really know."
What about the incident itself?
"I don't really remember what happened, honestly. I don't even know."
-- Mark Medina
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