TORONTO -- In a game ultimately decided by a buzzer-beating bucket from Toronto Raptors big man Pascal Siakam, it was an earlier, less highlight-worthy fourth-quarter sequence that might've done the Phoenix Suns in.
With less than eight minutes remaining in a one-point game that the Raptors previously led by as many as 16, Suns forward Josh Jackson used two hands to shove Toronto's Chris Boucher as he elevated for what looked like a surefire dunk. The play was reckless from both a safety standpoint and a basketball perspective, as Jackson caught Boucher in a defenseless position, and he also gifted the Raptors free points while trying to make a defensive play he had no chance on.
Jackson's shove resulted in an and-1, which Boucher completed at the free-throw line, and a flagrant foul that kept possession with Toronto, leading to a Kyle Lowry 3-pointer. To make matters worse, Jackson earned his second technical foul of the night, and an ejection, for berating officials after shoving Boucher. Lowry made him pay for the technical with a made free throw.
If you're trying to keep up, the Raptors held an 88-87 lead with 7:51 remaining, but by the time Phoenix got the ball back with 7:31 left, Toronto's lead had swelled to 95-87.
In a frustrated Suns locker room filled with expletives bellowing from the shower area following their 35th loss of the season, Jackson didn't seem to regret the play.
"The last seven or eight minutes of the game, when I looked up (at the video board), I thought there were plenty of plays we should've been shooting free-throws on, and for some reason, we were playing defense (instead), and then they're going down there and shooting free throws," Jackson told reporters. "It was just a lot of frustration, a lot of calls that should've been called that wasn't. I felt like it was my job to step up and say something for my teammates. I felt like somebody should've got a technical foul, because that was just ridiculous. Somebody should've said something."
To Jackson's point, the transition play that led to the Raptors' seven-point possession began when Suns swingman Kelly Oubre Jr. failed to draw a foul while being knocked off the ball by Boucher and stripped by C.J. Miles. However, the Raptors were actually whistled for six more fouls (27-21) than the Suns over the course of the game, and Phoenix took 11 more free-throws (36-25) than Toronto, including a 10-9 free-throw advantage in the fourth quarter.
As for the second technical Jackson picked up while officials reviewed whether his foul on Boucher was a flagrant, the 21-year-old said it had nothing to do with disagreeing on the flagrant assessment.
"I didn't care anything about that," Jackson said. "I actually fouled (Boucher) hard on purpose, to make a statement that we're out here getting our butts kicked, and not saying nothing or doing nothing about it, so I'm gonna kick somebody's butt, too. I'm not just about to lay down."
No team has been called for more fouls per game than the Suns (24) this season, and on the other end, Phoenix ranks fourth from the bottom in free-throw-attempt rate (free throws per field-goal attempt). But Jackson doesn't subscribe to the theory that the young Suns need to earn their stripes with officials.
"That's B.S.," Jackson said. "That should never be that way. I watch All-Star guys get the benefit of the doubt every night. Questionable calls, they still get them. But teams like us, we just don't for some reason. I don't know what it is."
Jackson has now picked up 15 technicals during his season-and-a-half in the Association, and his six technicals this season give Phoenix four players in the league's top 30 for techs. He joins T.J. Warren, Kelly Oubre (who the Suns acquired from Washington last month), and Devin Booker.
Jackson, who recorded seven points in 19 minutes before his first career ejection Thursday night, is averaging 9.5 points, four rebounds, 2.3 assists, and a steal in 22 minutes per game for the 11-35 Suns, a team with a nine-year playoff drought that's second-longest in the league.