Late in the second quarter of Thursday's Game 6 between the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers, Hawks forward Mike Scott and Pacers guard George Hill each received technical fouls for a brief scuffle that got a little physical:
As Jeff Teague dialed up a transition 3-point attempt, Scott and Hill battled for rebounding position, with Scott shoving Hill out of bounds toward the baseline photographers. The former San Antonio Spurs guard didn't appreciate that, coming right back and pointing his finger in Scott's face. The second-year man from Virginia didn't appreciate that, knocking Hill's hand away and shoving him in the face before teammates and coaches came in and separated the two players.
“He put his finger in my face,” Scott said after the game, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He put his finger on me and I was defending myself.”
Despite the physical contact, neither player was ejected; they both received technicals and stayed in the game, with Scott going on to notch a mammoth third-quarter posterization of Pacers big man Ian Mahinmi and Hill chipping in 14 points, four rebounds and four assists in a 95-88 win that extends the series to a winner-advances, loser-goes-home Game 7 in Indianapolis on Saturday.
The question, though, is whether the Pacers will have a full roster at their disposal when Game 7 tips off.
That loop shows Paul George and reserve Rasual Butler stepping onto the court before the Pacers' coaches could hold them back. George takes two steps off the bench before heading back to the sideline; Butler goes a bit further, stepping out past the 3-point line in the corner.
Neither player actually got anywhere near the "fight," but that might not matter. Here's the letter of the law, from Rule No. 12 ("Fouls and Penalties"), Section VII ("Fines"), subsection c. of the NBA's official rule book: "During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be suspended, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $50,000. The suspension will commence prior to the start of their next game." That, of course, would be Game 7.
In the past, the interpretation of that rule has been that if you take any steps off the bench and toward conflict, you're going to take a seat the following game. Cases in point: Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson and John Starks in 1997, and Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw in 2007. But those enforcements came under David Stern's reign; will Adam Silver's NBA feature such strict interpretation, too?
Vivlamore reports that the league is going to take a look at the sequence. Pacers coach Frank Vogel didn't seem especially worried after the game.
“I haven’t seen it,” Vogel said, according to Vivlamore. “Somebody told me about it. I’m not concerned about any suspensions until I hear something. I don’t imagine there would be.”
Former league disciplinary czar Stu Jackson, who now works as an analyst for NBA TV, offered his take via Twitter early Friday morning:
With all due respect to Rasual, Pacers fans will surely hope that the new decision-makers see things the way that Jackson does.
UPDATE, 10:45 a.m., 5/2/14: I didn't see this the first time around, but thanks to multiple Pacers fans, here's a screenshot that seems to show several Hawks — including starting center Pero Antic — having come off their bench and onto the court on the far side of the floor, too:
Again, it will be interesting to see just how the league interprets the phrase "immediate vicinity" in the cases of both clubs here.
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