What happened in the fourth quarter of the Pacers’ 108-97 victory over Golden State Tuesday night was not a brawl. This was not even a fight. It was some pushing and shoving that unfortunately migrated to the edge of the front row.
Roy Hibbert, who became the target of a handful of frustrated Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter scrum, was ejected for responding a little too vigorously and may well be suspended.
This was not a flashback, it was not a reminder, it was nothing of the sort.
It was actually kind of ironic that eight players from the Pacers’ ABA years were on hand: Mel Daniels, Darnell Hillman, Freddie Lewis, Billy Keller, George McGinnis, Bob Netolicky, Tom Thacker and Jerry Harkness were at Bankers Life Fieldhouse as part of a tribute to Roger Brown, who will be posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in the class of 2013.
To those guys, that wasn’t a fight; that was the locker room at halftime.
And it most certainly was nothing remotely reminiscent of Malice at The Palace. That horrific scene was nine years ago, but it feels like a lifetime. All involved are long, long gone.
Anyone who attempts to link those two events is simply, profoundly, sadly and monumentally wrong.
“Our guys know,” said Indiana Coach Frank Vogel. “I don’t think there’s even a comparison to those Pacers teams in the past, it’s not even close. Our guys play a physical, clean brand of basketball and they don’t back down. Pushing and shoving is a heck of a lot different than what happened here in the past.”
When Hibbert crashed the lane for rebound position, Golden State’s David Lee responded with an emphatic push. Hibbert then gave a two-handed shove and things sparked when Stephen Curry — who may also draw a suspension — decided to go all Jeff Van Gundy on Hibbert and tried to climb him. David West bulldozed his way into the mix to defend his teammate and some more pushing and shoving ensued.
“To tell you the truth, it was between me and David Lee,” Hibbert said. “I don’t know why he (Curry) came at me like that. Other guys want to run up on me, that’s, I don’t know. … Seriously, I didn’t even feel (Curry). He just ran up on me and I don’t know. It’s between me and David Lee and he wants to get involved.
“I’m the type of person, I don’t want to start anything with a person that’s smaller than me. If I have somebody my size, we’ll talk it out like men, but I don’t take pride in tossing a little guy to the side.”
In a figurative sense, the Pacers have been beating people up lately. This was their fifth straight win, all by double figures, the average margin of victory a healthy 23.8 points.
They do not play a finesse game. With West, Hibbert, Ian Mahinmi, Tyler Hansbrough and Co., they play a physical, power game that tends to wear down and frustrate opponents – particularly those that find themselves on the short end of a rout.
The Knicks lost their cool as the Pacers were rolling to a 34-point win. Detroit’s Will Bynum took the cheapest of shots at Hansbrough as the Pacers cruised to their second consecutive blowout of the Pistons, earning a suspension of his own. And now Lee, no doubt tired of having to play power forward and center at the same time thanks to Andrew Bogut’s back injury and Andres Biedrins’ ineffectiveness, takes a shot at Hibbert and things escalate from there.
“We preach and talk about togetherness, so that’s a part of what we’re going to do,” West said. “We’re not going to let teams, especially in that instance, just gang up on Roy. They came at him too many times. After the first initial (when) he and Lee go at it, there’s no need for those two other guys to come and put their hands on Roy. There’s just no need for that.”
Sooner or later, we have to allow the Pacers to stand up for themselves without every exchange of testosterone becoming a trauma.