Goran Dragic left Friday night’s game against the Lakers at the Staples Center with 5:29 to play in the third quarter, but it wasn’t his back, an ankle or some new injury which forced the Heat’s point guard to exit early.
He was ejected.
Dragic was tossed for only the second time in his career after he charged towards Jordan Clarkson moments after the backup Lakers guard shoved Dragic hard from behind with a forearm to the back of his head, knocking him to the floor. The exchange set off a fracas between the teams and it only escalated when James Johnson and Julius Randle exchanged words with Johnson charging towards Randle before he was restrained.
Out of all that, Dragic and Clarkson were ejected, Johnson was hit with a technical and the Lakers – up 76-68 at that point – went on their merry way toward an easy 127-100 victory over the Heat.
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Afterward, Dragic left before reporters could get inside the Heat locker room and had no comment on his way out of the building. But his coach had plenty to say.
“It's really shameful, disgraceful that Goran Dragic got thrown out of that game,” said coach Erik Spoelstra, who came racing off the bench to try and separate players. “[He] gets an elbow to his face, somebody that wants to fight knocks him down on the ground, and just a bailout, shameful, disgraceful ejection. There’s no way he should be thrown out in that situation for just taking an elbow to the face and getting up. Not even necessarily defending himself, just getting up.”
“At that point, it’s an eight-point game and we pretty much let it go from there. I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but he is our best player. Having him go down with us down the stretch, it’s probably a possession game.”
For his part, Clarkson said he wasn’t going to back down from Dragic, whom he claims took his own swipe at him.
“When he switched on me, he kind of elbowed me in the stomach a little bit and I kind of shoved him a little bit out the lane,” Clarkson said. “He came back and kind of chunked like an elbow in my chest. From then I pushed him as well.”
Clarkson said he put his fists up to defend himself as Dragic charged at him before being restrained.
“To be honest with you just kind of one of those things,” Clarkson said. “He was running at me I didn’t know what he was going to do. I kind of put my hands up just trying to defend myself. I thought back to stuff Kobe told me about when he had an incident. He said ‘ never leave your hands down when you’re about to get into something.’ Just something quick.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton thought the entire incident was overblown.
“Couple players pushing each other obviously,” he said. “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. You never want a fight to happen, but a scuffle, two guys pushing each other, keep the game moving, let’s go.”
Lou Williams, the league’s leading scorer off te bench, led six Lakers scorers who reached double figures with 24 points as Los Angeles (14-26) piled up 68 points in the paint, the most the Heat (11-27) has allowed all season.
Former Heat forward Luol Deng, who tried to play peacemaker during the scuffle, had 19 points and 14 rebounds.
Willie Reed led the Heat with 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks and Johnson had 20 points and five rebounds off the bench. But the Heat couldn’t sustain enough of an inside presence overall.
The 127 points were the most the Heat has given up in regulation this season and the 27-point margin of defeat was the Heat’s second-worst this season. The Lakers outrebounded Miami by 21 and outscored the Heat in the paint by 20.
“They just got real comfortable,” Reed said of the Lakers offense. “They started making a whole bunch of shots. I have to be more vocal to let the guards know where the ball screens are coming and I didn’t do a good job of that today. I have to be able to speak up so they can get into them and we can make it hard for them to score at the basket.”
Like they did in Miami back on Dec. 22 when they jumped ahead 11-0, the Lakers scored the first 10 points of the game before coach Erik Spoelstra called time with 9:14 left in the opening quarter and brought in the Johnsons off the bench. That finally got the Heat’s offense going and Miami eventually went on an 11-0 run and took its first lead of the game 43-42 on a Dragic layup with 6:28 left in the half.
In the middle of that run, Tyler Johnson threw down a nasty left-handed dunk, posterizing the Lakers’ Lou Williams, sending the Heat’s bench into a frenzy. Hassan Whiteside, who rejoined the team Friday and is expected to play Sunday, was so pumped he had to be held back by Reed.
Still, the Heat went into the half down 58-56 having allowed the Lakers to scored 40 first-half points in the paint.
There would be no rally in the second half – especially after Dragic was ejected.
Before he was tossed, Dragic had 16 points, three rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes.
The league office reviews ejections when team’s file a report. But Spoelstra said he has no interest in hearing what it has to say.
“Who knows. Who cares,” Spoelstra said. “We'll probably have a report tomorrow. Whatever. You can look at it over and over. He was just taking a two-handed shove to the chin and he gets ejected for that. None of us get it. None of us understand it. And I can care less about hearing any kind of explanation about it [Saturday].”