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The Pacers vs Piston Brawl, also known as Malice at the Palace was an all-out brawl between players and fans during an NBA regular season match between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons on November 19, 2004. The fight, which broke out with less than a minute left in the game is one of the ugliest moments in NBA history and resulted in the suspension of nine players and 10 players and fans being charged for assault.
What was the story behind the Pacers vs Pistons Brawl?
The Pacers and the Pistons had a significantly heated rivalry over the years and had faced off in the previous season’s Eastern Conference finals which the Pistons had won on their way to the NBA title. The Pacers came into this game with a 6-2 record and on the back of two straight wins while the Pistons had a 4-3 record at the time. The Pacers had dominated most of the game, opening a 20 point lead by halftime and the Pistons only managed to claw a net five points off that lead.
There was a lot of accumulated frustration among the Pistons players and particularly so with Ben Wallace. This seemingly catalyzed the heated atmosphere that characterized the whole affair. With 45 seconds left on the clock and the Pistons trailing by 15 points, Ben Wallace received a hard foul from Ron Artest near then hoop as he attempted a layup. Wallace, clearly frustrated by the Pacers’ superiority angrily shoved Artest in the face and across the court.
As is customary in NBA feuds, players from both sides rushed in to separate the two players. At this point there was nothing unusual about the fight because players regularly go at it and fights rarely last more than a few seconds. The events that unfolded next however catapulted the brawl into historic proportions.
`A Piston’s fan named John Green threw a beer from the stands at Artest who was laying on the scorer’s table putting on a headset and pretending to speak to broadcaster Mark Boyle over a dead microphone. The Pacers small forward had a well-documented bad temper and Pacer’s president Donnie Walsh later claimed that the antic was Artest’s way of trying to calm himself down.
The beer hit Artest on the chest sending the player into a mad rage. Artest jumped off the table and flew into the stands and mistakenly grabbed the wrong culprit. Pacers players Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’neal rushed after Artest but they ended up fighting with other fans with Pistons players desperately trying to break up the messy fight. Fans became more unruly and they started throwing more drinks and objects in Artest’s direction as well as running onto the court. When Artest returned to the court, two fans confronted him leading to another brawl which saw Artest punch one of the fans.
As the other fan tried to push away Artest, they both fell over because of the slippery floor at which point Anthony Johnson struck him in the back of the head. As the fan tried to stand up, Jermaine O’Neal punched him in the jaw. Artest was pulled away from the fans but the scene remained chaotic, with arena security and police overwhelmed by the unexpected turn of events. By the time the brawl died out, nine spectators were injured, with two of them requiring hospital visits. The game was called off and the Pacers were awarded a 97-82 win.
Aftermath of the Pacers vs Pistons Brawl?
In the Pacers’ locker room, police came in in an attempt to arrest some of the players but the team rushed Artest to the team bus and refused to cooperate. The police decided to make the arrests after reviewing footage of the incident and they protected the Pacers as they left the arena.
On November 20, 2004, the NBA suspended nine players from both camps for a total of 146 games. The Pacers would bear the bigger weight with their players Artest (86 games), Jackson (30), O’Neal (15), Johnson (5) Reggie Miller (1) suspended for a total of 137 games. On the Pistons’ side Ben Wallace got a 6 game suspension while Derrick Coleman Elden Campbell and Chauncey Billups got 1 game each. Artest’s suspension remains the longest ever in NBA history as a result of an on-court incident.
The suspensions decimated Indiana’s roster and this meant the demise of their playoff chances as their play waned off from there. Green and Artest later apologized to each other and even participated in charity work together to promote peace. Artest has since changed his name to Metta World Peace and now plays for the Lakers.