Robin Lopez threw the first punch, but Raptors hit last

SHARE Robin Lopez threw the first punch, but Raptors hit last
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TORONTO — Before the tipoff with Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, there was Bulls big man Robin Lopez — wild hair and all — punching the home team’s mascot, Raptor.

Nothing new for Lopez, who has a long history of some fun-loving mascot abuse.

With the Bulls leading 88-72 with 3:58 left in the third quarter, Lopez and Raptors forward Serge Ibaka got into a scuffle after a Jimmy Butler three-pointer. Both players threw punches and had to be separated. Neither connected, but both were ejected from the game with suspensions from the league office pending.

It wasn’t the last show of resistance from the Raptors.

The Raptors overcame a 15-point deficit to win 122-120 in overtime, ending their 11-game losing streak to the Bulls.

It was a devastating loss for the Bulls (33-38), who remained on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

“They were the aggressors on both sides of the floor,’’ Butler said. “Getting layups on one end and stops on the other. Hell, that’s how we were playing for a majority of the game. You know, whenever you’re playing like that the game turned quicker.

“I mean we’ve got another one [tonight against Detroit] . . . yadda, yadda, yadda . . . be better . . . yadda, yadda, yadda . . . same thing I always say.’’

Not that the Bulls have anyone to blame but themselves.

Each team missed potential game-winners, sending the game to overtime.

The Raptors (42-29) completely took over in overtime. After Butler’s jumper, the Raptors took control with an 8-0 run.

Butler finished with 37 points on 11-for-21 shooting, while Rajon Rondo had 24 points, but only two after the third quarter.

The altercation between Lopez and Ibaka, however, took center stage.

“It seemed like I had three guys on me and I was being pulled back,’’ Lopez said. “And I’m not sure what was going on with him. But it felt like nobody had any hold on him. He just kept coming at me with his arm. I was just trying to get him off me.

“I’m expecting to be suspended, Lopez said. ‘‘Could go either way. Whatever.’’

Not that his teammates blamed him.

“Ibaka was talking to me for some time,’’ Butler said. “I was like, ‘Why? I mean c’mon, man. Play basketball.’ I didn’t see what happened. I just saw obviously punches thrown. I don’t know who hit who or who didn’t hit who. But I mean obviously he’s going to be suspended. We know that. We’re going to miss that guy, but what’s new? Next man up, right?’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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