Some basketball players freak out when they get ejected, screaming and cursing and carrying on. Others throw up their hands and wail in a woe-is-me plea for pity from punishing officials. Others, like J.R. Smith on Monday night, just bow their heads and run off the floor back to the locker room.
The best approach, though, is the one Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders took to getting chucked after arguing a charging call during the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's matchup with the Washington Wizards in the nation's capital — make sure the refs know that, above all else, you think they're doing a terrific job.
The ejection, which ties Sanders with Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins for the league lead at three, came after Sanders barreled into Wizards point guard John Wall outside the restricted area to earn an offensive foul with the Bucks down 14 points in the fourth, then argued with referee Kevin Cutler about whether Wall was inside the restricted area (which, again, he wasn't). Sanders pressed his point, got T'd up; this, it appears, led him to more strenuously object, which didn't work, as he got another technical foul and an early exit. But not, thankfully, before expressing his appreciation for all that officials Cutler, Bennie Adams and Bennett Salvatore had done, and would continue to do.
Sanders finished with 17 points on 8 for 13 shooting, 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 29 minutes before getting the gate, and the Wizards finished off a 106-93 win at the Verizon Center behind a stellar 23-point, 10-assist, six-rebound, four-steal performance by Wall. After the game, Sanders said the fun-for-us-but-not-for-the-Bucks outburst grew out of mounting frustration at the Bucks squandering an opportunity, according to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
"I really want to win," Sanders said of his response. "I want to gain some momentum going into the playoffs and seal our position. I felt like we fought hard but we didn't play our best.
"There were a lot of things I was frustrated with."
That's somewhat understandable — while the Bucks are no longer fighting for their playoff lives (they're eight games ahead of the Toronto Raptors for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and are just a sliver shy of being mathematically locked into one of the East's eight slots), they are fighting for the chance to extend their playoff lives as long as possible. That means doing whatever they can to move above the lowest seed and avoid facing the supernova-hot top-ranked Miami Heat in the first round, and that means grabbing wins wherever they can, which only figures to get harder down the stretch — 11 of Milwaukee's final 19 games come against playoff competition, including a pair against the streaking Heat, two against the Oklahoma City Thunder and three against the Atlanta Hawks, who now sit 2 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee in the No. 7 slot and are also looking to avoid Miami in Round 1.
As such, games like Wednesday's contest against the Wizards are particularly important — while today's Wiz aren't nearly as woeful as their overall record makes them seem (they boast the league's No. 7 defense and are 16-14 since Wall's return), the Bucks need to take care of business against the league's lesser lights. Not only did they not do that, but they got their doors blown off early, allowing Washington to go on 17-6 and 14-zip runs in the first half and build a 20-point lead before clawing their way back into the fray late in the third ... only to watch it all fall away early in the fourth as Wall (eight points and two assists in the quarter) and largely forgotten man Trevor Booker (nine of his 13 points and six of his 12 rebounds came in the final frame) push Washington over the finish line. Thumbs down, all around.
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