When you have two playoff bound teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Indiana Pacers, emotions can run high, particularly in the final stretch of the regular season. That’s exactly what happened when a skirmish ensued on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but fortunately, a full-blown fracas was avoided.
With the Pacers up by 10 at the 6:10 mark of the fourth quarter, things got more than chippy when Pacers center Roy Hibbert and Warriors forward David Lee were battling for post position following a foul call. Lee shoved Hibbert, who in turn, shoved Lee back.
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry then joined in the fray, trying to keep Hibbert at bay with a bear hug. Hibbert shoved Curry away as more players from both teams tried to quell the scuffle, which spilled into the front row seats near the corner end lines.
After the action came to a halt, Lee, Curry, Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Pacers forward David West were assessed technical fouls. Hibbert was done for the night with an ejection.
"There were two or three guys coming after (Hibbert)," said West. "We preach and talk about togetherness, so that's part of what we're going to do. We're going to defend one another. They came after him too many times."
Thankfully, the skirmish didn’t escalate into a brawl akin to the infamous “Malice in the Palace” on Nov. 19, 2004 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Ironically, that melee would also involve the Pacers.
The Pacers assistant coaching staff did an admirable job of keeping the bench players from getting involved and subduing tensions that could’ve fueled irrational actions. Prolonged suspensions resulting from the scuffle would have been detrimental for both teams heading into the postseason.
"It was just physical play," said Curry. "Teams are gearing up for playoff basketball and amping up the intensity a little bit."
The Pacers went on to win 108-97, avenging an earlier loss to the Warriors on December 1 at Oracle Arena. West led the Pacers with 28 points and seven rebounds. Curry scored a season-high 38 points for the Warriors in a losing effort.
Both teams probably won’t meet each other in the playoffs, unless they happen to make it all the way to the NBA Finals. Rest assured, it will be a physical matchup if that ever came to fruition.
"Indiana's a very physical team," said Lee. "They're one of the most physical teams, if not the most physical team in the East."