The beef between the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks has been broiling for the past month, according to Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings. Back on March 24, Bucks reserve Mike Dunleavy Jr. laid a hard foul on Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough, busting the former Tar Heel's nose and cheekbone. "Ever since then, it's been little cheap shots back and forth," Jennings told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Charles F. Gardner.
On April 14, Indy retaliated, with David West taking a high-and-tight shot at Dunleavy in a rematch at the Bradley Center. Tensions flared again when the teams faced off Thursday night, with Leandro Barbosa picking up a flagrant foul for cleaning Dunleavy out on a fourth-quarter drive. That primed the pump for Bucks center Larry Sanders, who's been feeling himself a little bit of late, to explode ... which, as you can see in the clip above, he did. From Gardner at the Journal Sentinel:
The Bucks were trailing, 106-94, Thursday when Sanders drew his first technical foul for arguing after being called for fouling [Danny] Granger. Just 20 seconds later, Sanders was called for his sixth foul and then another technical.
Sanders pointed in the direction of West and the teams circled near midcourt before Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute pulled Sanders away and he headed to the dressing room to a chorus of boos.
"You just don't want things to get out of hand," Mbah a Moute said. "It was a hard-fought game and emotions get involved. I just didn't want him to do something stupid.
"I saw he was very upset and was trying to go at [West] so I just held him back."
Before we go any further: Check out Pacers coach Frank Vogel getting his JVG on, stepping in and pushing Granger out of the fray! Big ups to Coach Vogel for throwing himself in harm's way to try to play peacemaker. For comedy's sake, though, I would have greatly preferred it had he wound up on the floor, wrapped around Roy Hibbert's leg, because he got confused.
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Now, to Mbah a Moute's comment on Sanders "trying to go at" David West: Sure, that's one way of looking at it. Another, forwarded by Pacers beat writer Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star, is that Sanders "pulled the fake tough guy role," acting like he wanted to go after West before demurring when all the circling actually cleared a path to his purported target.
Jared Wade of Pacers blog Eight Points, Nine Seconds echoed that sentiment, suggesting that Sanders was "pretending he wanted his teammates to let him go after West [before] deciding that was a terrible idea" ("This was presumably cause David could eat his children"). For his part, West didn't seem too concerned about it, telling Wells after the game that his only real concern in the scrum was getting teammate George Hill out of the way.
"If there was anything, which I knew wasn't going to happen, I'd take the brunt of it," he said.
(West's a smart man; the Pacers are 7-0 when Hill starts at the point.)
Milwaukee went on an 11-4 run after Sanders' second ejection in 10 days, and got within five after Mbah a Moute's first 3-pointer of the season made it 113-108 with 36 seconds left. But the Pacers got free throws and a Paul George dunk in the final half-minute to seal a 118-109 win — their seventh straight, their 11th in 12 April affairs and their 16th in their last 20 outings — that locks up home-court advantage for Indy in the first round of the playoffs.
For the Bucks, the loss was dire, dropping Scott Skiles' sagging squad a full three games back of the Philadelphia 76ers for the East's eighth seed with just four games left to play. Milwaukee's third-straight loss also clinched a postseason berth for the New York Knicks.
Dan Sinclair of Bucks blog Brew Hoop kind of looked on the bright side of Sanders' ejection: "It's nice to see Larry showing a little personality, but it sucks that it's most visible when he's getting knocked around by bigger, better players." I will offer another silver lining: If Larry Sanders is a "fake tough guy," and that means no punches got thrown and nobody got compromised less than a week before the end of the regular season, well, good. Let's thank heaven for small mercies, because we haven't always gotten so lucky.
This is a different time, though, and a much different Pacers team, though no less tight-knit — beat man Wells wrote at his Star blog that it's the "closest Pacers team I've covered since I took over the beat in January 2005." With home-court sewn up, a "many hands make light work" recipe for success and a chance to do some real damage this postseason, they realize they're playing for tomorrow just as much as today, according to Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press:
"We've got a lot more to lose in that situation if something happens, if anyone throws a punch or anything like that, so we have to have that composure to back away and realize our season is far from over,'' Granger said.
After the game, Bucks point guard Jennings was still steaming about the way the Pacers conducted themselves on the court.
"All of a sudden now they're a team that's tough and likes to talk a lot of stuff," he told the Journal Sentinel's Gardner. "I guess when you're winning you become tough."
Maybe. I guess that's something Milwaukee wouldn't know a ton about right now. And unless they can pull off a miracle, with some help from a big-time Sixers choke, they'll have a long offseason to think about it.
Is the video above not working for you? Feel free to check out the scuffle elsewhere, thanks to GandLSports.
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