LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Five players were tossed from Orlando’s win in Minnesota on Friday, Feb. 3, as the second NBA 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.
With Johnson and Devin Booker sidelined by injury, the Suns looked unlikely to turn the tide two days after a 32-point loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
But the Celtics, the owners of the best record in the league and the second-ranked scoring team, were held to less than 100 points at home for the first time since December.
Jaylen Brown scored 27 points for Boston, but Jayson Tatum scored just 20 on dismal three-for-15 shooting as the Celtics connected on just 38.7 percent of their shots from the floor.
Phoenix, led by 25 points from Mikal Bridges, led by as many as 20 in the second quarter and were up 57-44 at halftime.
Robert Williams’s jump shot to end the third cut the deficit to one point but Phoenix, with their second unit on the floor to open the fourth, used an 8-0 scoring run to rebuild their lead.
Chris Paul added 15 points for the Suns, Dario Saric and Deandre Ayton had 14 apiece, and Damion Lee added 11 off the bench.
Simons leads Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers shook off a slow start that saw them trailing by 20 in the first quarter to beat the Washington Wizards 124-116.
Anfernee Simons scored 20 of his 33 points in the third quarter — when he made six of his nine three-pointers to help the Blazers grab the lead.
Damian Lillard added 29 points for Portland who ended the Wizards’ six-game winning streak.
The Indiana Pacers bounced back from a tough, one-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday with a 107-104 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
The Pacers snapped a four-game losing streak, but not before their 19-point lead in the third quarter dwindled to one midway through the fourth.
Buddy Hield scored 21 points for the Pacers against his former team, draining a three-pointer after Sacramento had cut the deficit to one.
Hield also pulled down 10 rebounds, including one off his own miss in the final minute that helped preserve the lead.
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