Thursday's nationally televised matchup between the Lakers and Mavericks in Los Angeles was supposed to be a key battle in the race for the No. 2 spot in the West playoff race. Instead, it turned ugly late, and not just in terms of the final score.
The Lakers won the game 110-82 to effectively ensure that the Mavs will end up with no better than the No. 3 seed in the West. But the really notable story from this game was the brawl that took place early in the fourth quarter.
As you can see above, it all started when Dallas guard Jason Terry shoved Lakers guard Steve Blake to the ground for an unnecessarily hard foul. Blake responded by getting in Terry's face, which started a full-scale shoving match between several people, including the Mavs' Brendan Haywood and the Lakers' Matt Barnes, a player known for occasionally acting like a hothead.
But it didn't stop there. As the players started to separate, Mavs assistant coach Terry Stotts tried to restrain Barnes, who didn't take too kindly to the attempt at making peace. He pushed Stotts to the floor, which, whether intentionally or not, is a serious no-no.
The refs responded to the entire altercation by ejecting Blake, Terry, Barnes and Haywood, and all four players can expect to miss at least one more game due to suspension. (Another player was ejected later as stated below, making five.) With the importance of playoff seeding, any missed time for these players could hurt both teams.
If this were all that had happened, it still would have registered as one of the biggest fights of the NBA season. However, as you can see after the jump, a fan made things a little more interesting a few minutes later.
Oh, well, that is perfectly normal. According to Los Angeles Times beat writer Mike Bresnahan, the fan was a partially nude woman who tried to rush the Mavericks' bench. I can only guess why, although I'm sure it had something to do with the previous fight. Thankfully, Staples Center security reacted quickly and ensured that no one would be hurt.
Wait, I almost forgot: Lakers guard Shannon Brown was ejected with the game in its final minutes for getting in the face of Brian Cardinal after a hard foul on Lakers star Pau Gasol. If you went to bed before the fourth quarter thinking the Lakers were sure to win, well, you were right, but you also missed a crazy 12 minutes.
So, what should we make of this whole mess? On TNT's "Inside the NBA" after the game, analyst and former NBA superstar Chris Webber said that the Mavs should be ashamed of themselves for not rushing to the defense of Terry when Blake first approached him following the foul. Such a reaction could have been a disaster -- maybe more players would have been ejected. However, in a league where team unity is paramount, this reaction (or lack thereof) could be a bad sign for the Mavs.
Perhaps playoff seeding is essentially set at this point and the forthcoming suspensions won't matter much. However, if these teams meet in the postseason, then the bad blood could create more shocking moments. Although, with the inclusion of the actions from the crazed fan, it's unlikely we'll see anything this weird for the rest of the NBA season.
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