The clash with the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night cost the already understaffed Lakers a key piece for their Thursday matchup with the heat in Miami.
The NBA on Thursday morning imposed a one-time ban on reserve guard Talen Horton-Tucker for leaving the bench area during the small hand-to-hand combat that resulted from a confrontation between Toronto’s O.G. was triggered. Anunoby and Lakers Point Guard Dennis Schröder. For the same reason, DeAndre Bembry and Fred VanVleet were suspended from the Raptors, while Anunoby and Montrezl Harrell (who were both expelled) were fined $ 30,000 and $ 20,000, respectively.
20-year-old Horton-Tucker has become an increasingly important member of the rotation in the absence of all-stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In the last 10 games he averaged 10.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists with a positive net rating. He was the Lakers’ best playmaker from the bench and scored the team’s top 17 points in defeating the Raptors.
“You come to the square during an argument and you are being suspended. We all know that, ”said coach Frank Vogel. « We talked to our boys about it, to our staff, to make sure our boys didn’t leave the bank. »
The NBA rules expressly forbid players who are not in play from leaving the bench area during the upheavals on the court. A video replay showed Horton-Tucker wandering towards midfield (the incident sparked by the basket near the Raptors bench). Remarkably, Schröder remained unscathed, which the NBA described as a joint foul on Anunoby.
Thursday was set to be a night when the Lakers were nearing full strength, with center Andre Drummond starting after a three-game break after a toe injury and new signing Ben McLemore also made his debut. Vogel seemed most frustrated that the NBA had waited two days for the decision.
« It was one of those disappointing things, » he said. “I wish there was some way the league could make that decision the day after the game instead of the day of the next game. It’s a little frustrating to find out after we prepare and after your go-through and so on. »
In addition to Horton-Tucker, striker Kyle Kuzma also missed Thursday’s game with a tight left calf that Vogel described as « significant ». He received an MRI on Thursday that showed a grade 1 strain.
Kuzma has averaged 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds with James from the line-up in the last 10 games on Thursday.
« He was only playing in the game the other night and actually asked to come out towards the end of the game because his calf made him really tight, » said Vogel. « And we wanted to see how it reacted overnight, get treatment and he was still in significant pain and tension and we decided to keep him out. »
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The Lakers had a rare road shootaround Thursday morning with the intention of anchoring McLemore, who last played for the Houston Rockets, better.
« If he’s in there tonight, it’ll throw some kind of stuff at him and just ask him to compete, » Vogel said before the game. « But we’re doing everything we can to bring it up to date as soon as possible. »
McLemore was an ace shooter last season when the Rockets were more competitive, shooting 40% and scoring six 3-point hits in the last two games against the Lakers in the playoffs. Speaking at a meeting with McLemore, Vogel insisted that he hoped to get some of the same results if the 28-year-old took on the Lakers.
« Obviously they want me to do candid shots and stuff like that, » McLemore said. « And he knew I could get on this Lakers team and put a big spark off the bench with my shooting skills. »
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