‘When someone gets up like that and gets in your face it can go one of two ways.’
Austin Rivers of the Minnesota Timberwolves gets hacked by Jalen Suggs of the Orlando Magic in an altercation during the third quarter of their NBA game. The Magic won, 127-120. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF NBA
LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Five players were tossed from Orlando’s win at Minnesota on Friday as the second National Basketball Association brawl in as many days overshadowed Phoenix’s upset of the league-leading Boston Celtics.
The wild scenes in Minneapolis erupted in the third quarter with an exchange between Orlando’s Mo Bamba and Minnesota’s Austin Rivers.
Bamba, Orlando’s 2.13-meter tall center, left his seat off the bench and punches were thrown, sparking a scrum that had security scrambling to separate players.
It ended with Bamba and Rivers ejected along with Orlando point guard Jalen Suggs and Minnesota’s Taurean Prince and Jaden McDaniels.
“When someone gets up like that and gets in your face it can go one of two ways,” Rivers said. “He threw a punch and it missed. And then Suggs, I think, grabbed me by my neck. That’s a big no-no.”
Rivers said he’d heard talk from a player he didn’t know on Orlando’s bench more than once during the game and far from trying to incite more he’d asked him to “just keep it respectful, bro.”
“I feel bad that I got thrown out of a game and I feel like I let my team down and in the process, two other guys, important players for our team, got thrown out as well,” Rivers said.
Minnesota coach Chris Finch was clearly irked that more Timberwolves players than Magic players were tossed.
He said he didn’t see any exchanges to spark the row, but “guy coming off the bench and throwing a punch — pretty egregious.”
Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley also missed the start of the incident.
“I turned and looked back and it was just a lot of guys trying to pull guys away from each other and trying to keep our guys on the bench,” he said.
One day earlier, Memphis’ Dillon Brooks and Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell were tossed from a game after a shoving match that followed Brooks’s blow to Mitchell’s groin.
The NBA suspended Brooks for one game for sparking the confrontation and fined Mitchell $20,000 for his incensed reaction.
The Magic, who were leading 83-73 when hostilities erupted with 1:32 left in the third, went on to win 127-120, led by 20 points from reserve point guard Cole Anthony.
In Boston, the absence of injured Devin Booker and Cam Johnson was no hindrance to the Suns, who bounced back from a blowout loss to Atlanta to beat the Celtics 106-94.
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