Johnson, ref tussle over ball in Raptors’ loss

Updated: December 11, 2012

Amir Johnson tossed after tussle over ball with ref in Raptors’┬áloss

Amir Johnson Ejected After Fighting For The Ball


PORTLAND, Ore. — Injuries, an ejection and a dubious record.

The Portland Trail Blazers‘ 92-74 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night had a little of everything.

Both sides were beset by injuries, with Portland missing starters Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, and Toronto losing starters Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry during the game.

Then Toronto’s Amir Johnson punctuated his ejection from the game by throwing his mouthpiece at the official who tossed him.

And finally, the Blazers went 0-for-20 from 3-point range, an NBA record for futility.

“I don’t want to break records like that,” said Portland star LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 30 points and 12 rebounds.

J.J. Hickson added 16 points and 11 boards for the Blazers, who led by as many as 18 points in the second half. DeMar DeRozan had 20 points for the Raptors, who have dropped eight straight games against Portland.

But the game was more about who didn’t play — or had to leave.

The Raptors lost Johnson when he was ejected with 5:01 left in the third quarter. He had words with referee David Jones while trying to take the ball from him following a Portland free throw. After Johnson was ejected, he threw his mouthpiece at Jones, and fellow players had to restrain him before he was escorted from the floor.

Johnson said that before free throws, he has a habit of rubbing the ball and then passing it to the ref.

“I guess the ref didn’t let me have the ball so we kind of got into a tug of war,” he said. “No words were really said and he rejected me out of the game and I kind of lost my cool from there.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Johnson’s actions were completely out of character.

“I don’t know what happened with Amir. He kind of lost his mind there for a little bit,” the coach said. “I told him we can’t have that on a night where we’re short-handed and we’re in a situation where we’re scrambling. We just gotta have more discipline than that.”

Johnson agreed that it was unusual for him to act out.

“My teammates know me, my parents know me. … I never lose my cool. I never said anything to a ref or got mad,” he said. “The only techs I’ve gotten were for hanging on the rim or slapping the backboard.”

Johnson, who is in his eighth NBA season, is likely looking at a fine from the league for the incident. Following the game, however, he was contrite.

“I think it was just really childish. It was something that didn’t need to happen,” Johnson said. “I lost my cool and I apologize on my part.”

Johnson, a reserve forward/center, is averaging 7.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season. He finished the game with four points and four rebounds in just more than 10 minutes.

Batum was shelved because of back pain that hampered him in Portland’s 99-80 home loss to Sacramento on Saturday, while Matthews was out because he strained his left hip in the fourth quarter against the Kings. Matthews tried to drive to the basket during warm-ups and limped off to the locker room, wincing.

Matthews missed a game for the first time in his four-year NBA career. He had played in 250 straight games, second most among active players behind Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.

To replace Matthews and Batum, the Blazers started Sasha Pavlovic and rookie Victor Claver.

“It felt great to know we could be down a couple of players and still get the win,” Hickson said. “We knew we were going to have to play extra hard because we were short-handed, but guys stepped up and we got the win.”

The Raptors were hurt late in the first quarter when Bargnani went to the locker room after falling awkwardly on a dunk. The Raptors said later that X-rays on his elbow were negative, but he did not return.

“He landed on his elbow and lost feeling in his hand,” Casey said. “We’ll have to wait and see tomorrow how it is.”

Toronto already was without Linas Kleiza, who has a sore right knee from Sunday night’s 102-83 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Blazers pulled ahead 30-24 in the second quarter on Pavlovic’s running hook, but the Raptors battled back and tied it at 38 on Ed Davis‘ putback.

Portland led 44-40 at the break and extended the lead with a 9-0 run capped by Aldridge’s hook shot and free throw that made it 58-46 midway through the third quarter.

Lowry did not play in the second half after he hurt his right shoulder in a fall.

“Somebody grabbed his arm and he hit the floor and he just felt he had a knot in his back,” Casey said.

Pavlovic’s fast-break layup put Portland up 79-68, and Hickson extended the lead to 83-68 with an alley-oop dunk from Nolan Smith.

Pavlovic finished 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists in his first start of the season.

“I thought Sasha Pavlovic played a terrific game — defensively more than anything else, but he played heavy minutes and I though he did a terrific job defensively and offensively. Obviously, LaMarcus did everything we needed from him,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “I thought it was a really good team win. We got a lot of good effort from a lot of people.”

Game notes

Stotts and Casey are close friends, having worked together with the Seattle SuperSonics and the Dallas Mavericks. Casey said their familiarity doesn’t mean the two aren’t competitive. “When we go out on the floor, it’s like playing your brother. You want to beat him,” Casey said. … It was Aldridge’s fourth straight double-double and seventh of the season. … The Raptors’ 74 points are the fewest they’ve ever scored against the Blazers.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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