ORLANDO – Timberwolves reserve forward Nemanja Bjelica said he apologized to teammates after he was ejected before playing five minutes in Tuesday’s lousy 108-102 loss at lowly Orlando.
That’s the only thing for which he apologized, though.
Bjelica and Magic guard Arron Afflalo were ejected in the second quarter after two separate confrontations earned each a pair of technical fouls and an automatic early night.
Their ejections came after Afflalo threw a haymaker punch that appeared to graze Bjelica’s head. Bjelica then wrapped Affalo in a headlock before he could throw another punch.
“What can I say?” Bjelica said afterward. “We were hitting each other during the game, [on] offense, defense. I don’t want to feel like a victim here. That’s part of the game. He took a swing at me. I was just trying to protect myself, first of all, and to help him, to calm him down, because he was wild.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with that guy. At that point, if you attack me like that, I have to protect myself and my family.”
Afflalo left the Amway Center without speaking to reporters. Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau deferred comment until he could watch video replay when asked if ejections for both players were justified.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t want to put it on the officials. We just didn’t play well.”
Teammate Jimmy Butler said Bjelica has nothing for which he should apologize.
“Everybody who knows me knows I’m a calm guy,” Bjelica said. “I know how those things work. I was raised on the streets, but I’m a professional basketball player. I will never fight in a game. One more time, I don’t want to feel like I’m a victim here.
“I try to protect myself. Thank God I react that way. I was trying to calm him down. I don’t know what will happen if I try to do something else.”
The Wolves meet Houston for the first time this season Thursday and the Rockets could be depleted, depending on what disciplinary action the NBA takes after stars Chris Paul, James Harden and other Rockets reportedly went to the L.A. locker room seeking a confrontation after a chippy, contentious Clippers victory.
“The game is emotional,” Thibodeau said when asked if he reminded his team not to invade the opposing team’s locker room after a game. “You have to do the right things. We just worry about us.”
When one door closes …
Tuesday’s game was a sort of homecoming for Wolves guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, who played five games for Orlando late last season and was released last summer just when he thought he might have found an NBA home. The Wolves signed him 12 days later to a make-good contract that last week became fully guaranteed for the regular season.
“It didn’t go as planned [in Orlando],” Georges-Hunt said. “Another door opened up and you take advantage of that one. It’s worked out so far. I’m just taking it day by day and trying to get better each day.”
• Wolves point guard Jeff Teague continues to wear a bulky brace on his healing left knee, probably through this week.
• The Wolves were set to fly after Tuesday’s game, but rescheduled to fly Wednesday morning because of snow and ice in Houston.
• Former Wolves forward Adreian Payne signed a two-way contract with the Magic and has played five NBA games this season. He is currently assigned to its Lakeland, Fla., G League team. The Wolves still owe Atlanta their 2018 first-round pick for him.
• The Magic had starting center Nikola Vucevic (hand), rookie forward Jonathan Isaac (sore ankle) and guard Terrence Ross (sprained MCL) out because of injuries. Veteran Marreese Speights didn’t play for personal reasons.