Lance Stephenson played a key role in the Los Angeles Lakers extending their lead to 14 points in the third quarter on Thursday night, but it was a driving layup in overtime that arguably tilted the game.
With less than a minute remaining and the Lakers leading the Clippers by two points, Stephenson took an outlet pass from LeBron James and attacked the rim. He absorbed a foul from Boban Marjanovic and finished a layup.
As Stephenson danced toward the corner of the baseline to celebrate the play, Marjanovic went down to the ground. Replay of the sequence showed Stephenson’s elbow connected with Marjanovic’s chin.
Officials themselves went to review the play. “The options are they can overturn the call and at least a flagrant,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said of the incident.
“I was blown away. Lance didn’t do that on purpose, but it doesn’t matter. It’s not intent. When I saw it on the Jumbotron, first of fall I thought it would be overturned. I was drawing up a play because I assumed we had the ball.
“And I thought we were going to get a free throw out of it. When we didn’t get either one, I don’t know how you can come to that judgment. I get that maybe they said Boban fouled first, but it’s still a flagrant.
“You make contact with the head, it’s a flagrant foul. Why put in those rules if you’re not going to call them? I was blown away by that.”
Beyond the three-point play putting the Clippers in a 123-118 deficit, it particularly stung because of their experience with Montrezl Harrell getting ejected after he elbowed a Jusuf Nurkic when going for a rebound.
For his part, Marjanovic largely shrugged the call off. “It’s basketball, sometimes you must feel the elbow,” he said. “It’s just a game. From my perspective, I hope when I do that that they don’t call a foul. If they can do that to me, I can do that to them.”
“He’s a big guy, so I just went up strong,” Stephenson said. He finished with 20 points off the bench, largely behind shooting 5-for-8 behind the arc.
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