With just over two minutes left in the third quarter, Thompson took to the foul line for free throws. Crowder was called to the bench for a substitution and, at that moment, both forwards were in close proximity to each other on the court of the FedExForum arena. At that point, the Cavs forward lightly smacked Crowder's backside.
Tristan Thompson was ejected for slapping the butt of former teammate Jae Crowder...— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 18, 2020
The move triggered the officiating crew to eject Thompson for the remainder of the game. The Grizzlies’ forward, however, did not take Thompson's gesture seriously, as he just briefly stopped near Thompson with a surprised look on his face.
NBA officials after the game explained that the ejection was called for a "physical taunt, slap to the backside" and had nothing to do with double-technical violations both players were called for earlier during the matchup.
“So, we have a history, and it was just a little competitive spirit [...] They might have taken it the wrong way because they may have forgotten we were teammates", Thompson said, adding that he would "definitely [be] calling (the Players Association) to appeal that", according to Fox News.
Crowder and Thompson both played for Lebron James' squad in the Cavs during the 2017-2018 NBA season.