The argument 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 issued a suspension for reserve wing Talen Horton-Tucker on Thursday morning 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 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.
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 slated to start after a three-game break after a toe injury, and new signing Ben McLemore is also available to play.
In addition to Horton-Tucker, striker Kyle Kuzma could also miss Thursday’s game as the left calf is tight, which coach Frank Vogel described as « significant ». The Lakers will make a decision on Kuzma closer to 4:30 p.m. PST tip where they will play against the team they played against in the NBA finals last year. Kuzma recently averaged 14.7 points and 7.2 rebounds with James from the lineup.
The Lakers had a rare road shootaround on 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. « But we’re doing everything we can to bring it up to date as soon as possible. »
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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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