PHOENIX — In a season when losses and injuries have become nearly as certain as death and taxes, the Lakers' never-ending nosedive took on a new twist.
The Lakers' 121-114 loss Wednesday to the Phoenix Suns at U.S. Airways Center featured Nick Young getting ejected with 7:33 left in the second quarter after being assessed with a “punching foul” on Suns guard Goran Dragic. It's likely the NBA will suspend Young for the Lakers' game on Friday in Boston and fine him up to $35,000. And on a team that prides itself on unity amid the struggles, Young openly lamented his teammates did not intervene.
“What I was mad about is it was one-on-five,” said Young, who had nine points on 4-of-8 shooting before his ejection. “If somebody had gotten in the middle, it wouldn't have escalated that much.”
It started when Phoenix forward Alex Len delivered a hard foul on Young that knocked him to the floor as he drove for a layup. Young immediately stood up and shoved Len back. Young and Suns forward Marcus Morris also shared shoves. Young then made contact with an open hand on Dragic's head after he entered the fray. Len also earned a flagrant foul 2 and a subsequent ejection. Morris was slapped with a technical foul. Young soon removed his jersey before entering the player's tunnel.
“You don't fight in this league,” Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. “It wouldn't help us to lose two or three more guys. I hate that Nick feels that way, but I'm sure at the moment he's just talking.”
The Lakers (14-25) talked plenty afterward. It went beyond the team's sixth consecutive defeat, its 12th in the past 13 games and a 14th-place standing in the Western Conference. Not to mention the Lakers going on a 21-8 run following Young's ejection before a seven-man rotation fizzled out.
“Unfortunately we didn't get a guy in between Nick and the three or four guys going at him,” said Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who posted 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting. “That was a first mistake or slow reaction on our part. We should've protected Nick there.”
Gasol and plenty of others didn't leap off the bench since the NBA immediately suspends any player who does so. That's why Jordan Hill could face a suspension for getting off the bench. But none of Young's teammates on the floor intervened, including Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshall, Chris Kaman and Jodie Meeks. Kelly took exception to criticism from former Laker Robert Horry criticizing him on TWC SportsNet for intervening. Marshall echoed similar concerns.
“I understand where Nick is coming from. He did get fouled hard. It wasn't a basketball play by any means,” said Marshall, who had 10 points on only 4-of-16 shooting and 13 assists. “But at the same time, we have to understand you have to win some and lose some. I don't know if that was the smartest play at the time.”
That's because the Lakers already field long-term injuries to Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Steve Nash (nerve issues in back), Steve Blake (hyperextended right elbow), Jordan Farmar (torn left hamstring) and Xavier Henry (bone bruise in right knee).
That's not what Young was thinking moments after Len knocked him to the floor.
“I wasn't trying to punch,” Young said. “I was trying to shove him out of my way. I was getting pushed further and back. It was more trying to get out. I'm very frustrated. But it's basketball.”