By Ben Golliver
Cheap play or crafty veteran trick?
In a scene you virtually never see in the NBA, Clippers forward Caron Butler earned two free throws in the closing seconds of a 98-73 loss to the Raptors in Toronto on Friday night by stealing the ball from rookie Jonas Valanciunas after approaching him to request a high-five.
After slapping hands at midcourt, Butler wrestled the ball away from Valanciunas and attempted to run in for a lay-up, only to earn two free throws on a clear path foul by the Lithuanian big man. Everyone else on the court was standing waiting for the game clock to run out in a 20+ point blowout. With the shot clock turned off and the scoring margin at 20+, protocol generally dictates that everyone relaxes in the name of good sportsmanship. Instead, Butler took advantage of Valanciunas, who was playing for the first time in more than five weeks after breaking his finger, ripping him off after suckering him in with an insincere gesture of goodwill.
Just as Bulls center Joakim Noah deserved a scolding for unnecessarily launching a three-pointer in an attempt to win the home crowd free hamburgers, Butler's play sets a bad precedent and encourages retaliation and running up the score in the future. Late-game situations need not be this complicated, regardless of the frustration level of the game or the (lack of) experience of the opponent. Just shake hands and let out the bad vibes in the locker room.
The two free throws helped Butler finish with 12 points and eight rebounds in the loss. Los Angeles dropped to 34-14 on the season.
Rudy Gay scored a team-high 20 points for the Raptors in his first game since being traded by the Grizzlies. Amir Johnson finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds. Toronto improved to 17-30 with the win. Video via YouTube user Dizunks