Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson made an early exit on Friday night, though not for a reason commonly seen across the league.
Thompson was ejected late in the third quarter of their 113-109 loss to the Grizzlies at FedExForum after slapping Memphis forward Jae Crowder in the butt as he walked past him at the free throw line.
Thompson — after picking up a technical foul in the first half — drew a foul with just more than two minutes left in the third quarter. As he was standing at the free throw line waiting for everyone to get set, Crowder walked past Thompson on his way back behind the 3-point line.
That’s when Thompson reached down and smacked him in the butt, causing Crowder to jump back in surprise.
Quickly, Thompson was assessed a second technical foul and thrown out of the game.
Thompson finished the night with three points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes. He’s averaged 12.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game this season, his ninth in the league.
He said after the game that he meant nothing bad by the slap. Thompson and Crowder played together on the Cavaliers briefly during the 2017-18 season before Crowder was traded to the Utah Jazz, and he was just having a bit of fun.
The 28-year-old said he will appeal the technical, too.
“It’s a former teammate of mine, Jae Crowder. We have history,” Thompson said, via Fox Sports Cleveland. “It’s just a little competitive spirit. They might have took it the wrong way, probably because they might have forgot that we were teammates for half a year. It’s like playing anyone else … I’m definitely calling the [Players Association] tomorrow to appeal that 1,000 percent.”
Thompson’s first technical of the game came when he and Crowder were chirping at each other in the first half, too. Again, though, he said it was nothing unusual.
“We got a tech for being former teammates,” Thompson said. “I guess you can’t talk to your former teammates no more.”
Crowder, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds, wasn’t too phased by Thompson’s move.
“A lot of barking. No bite, obviously,” Crowder said, via Fox Sports Grizzlies. “I’ll leave it at that.”
The Grizzlies used a massive 15-3 run in the third quarter to take control of the game, and pushed to a 21-point lead early in the fourth quarter. While the Cavaliers nearly rallied all the way back late, Memphis held on to grab the four-point win.
Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers with 28 points, shooting 11-of-25 from the field. Kevin Love added 19 points and nine rebounds, and Larry Nance Jr. finished with 16 points off the bench.
Dillon Brooks led the Grizzlies with 26 points in the win. Brandon Clarke added 15 points off the bench, and Jonas Valanciunas finished with eight points and 18 rebounds. The win marked the seventh in a row for Memphis.
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