AUBURN HILLS --
Players and fans exchanged punches in the stands as Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers game turned so ugly a police investigation was necessary.
Indiana's Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson charged into the stands and fought with fans in the final minute of their game against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, and the brawl forced an early end to the Pacers' 97-82 win.
Officials stopped the game with 45.9 seconds remaining after pushing and shoving between the teams spilled into the stands once fans got involved by throwing things at the players near the scorer's table.
Former Pistons' "bad boy" and TV commentator Bill Laimbeer told Local 4 it was the worst fight he'd ever seen.
"On the court, you can have all the fights in the world � but when you get into the stands, that's the cardinal taboo of any professional sport," said Laimbeer. "You cannot go into the stands and attack fans no matter what they say or what happens."
About three hours following the startling finish, Auburn Hills police walked out of a television trailer with videotapes gathered from various media outlets.
Officers interviewed witnesses at the arena in suburban Detroit, and planned to talk to the players involved in the melee.
"We'll put it all together, take it to the Oakland County Prosecutors Office and have them review it and they'll decide if there are any charges," Auburn Hills Deputy Chief Jim Mynsberge said. "I hope we can do it before Thanksgiving."
Mynsberge added: "At this time, we don't have any indication of major injuries."
That's probably the only fortunate fact.
"There's no place in the game for what went on with this incident," said Joe Dumars, the Pistons' president of basketball operations. "It was just an ugly scene."
Detroit's Larry Brown, who started coaching in 1972 after his playing career ended, said it was the ugliest thing he had seen as a coach or player.
After several minutes of players fighting with fans in the stands, a chair, beer, ice and popcorn were thrown at the Pacers as they made their way to the locker room in one of the scariest brawls in an NBA game.
It all started when Detroit's Ben Wallace went in for a layup and was fouled hard by Artest from behind, and escalated when Artest stormed into the stands after being hit by a full cup.
After being fouled, Wallace wheeled around and pushed Artest in the face. The benches emptied and punches were thrown.
As the players continued shoving each other near center court and coaches tried to restore order, Artest sprawled out on his back on the scorer's table, looking relaxed.
Just when it appeared tempers had died down, Artest was struck by a cup thrown from the stands and jumped up and charged into the stands, throwing punches as he climbed over seats.
"He was on top of me, pummeling me," fan Mike Ryan of Clarkston said. "He asked me, 'Did you do it?' I said, 'No, man. No!"'
Jackson joined Artest in the melee and threw punches at fans, who punched back at them.
Security personnel and ushers tried to break it up. Former Pistons player Rick Mahorn, who was seated courtside as a Detroit radio analyst, tried to stop the brawl in the stands. Detroit's Rasheed Wallace and Indiana's David Harrison were also in or near the stands trying to break up the fights.
Later, a man in a Pistons jersey approached Artest on the court, shouting at him. Artest punched him in the face, knocking him to the floor. Teammate Jermaine O'Neal stepped in and punched another man who joined the scrum.
"The NBA is withholding comment until it can review the incident," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
Players from both teams left the arena without comment.
Quentin Richardson of the Phoenix Suns watched the brawl on television.
"I have never seen a fight like that in a game since I was in high school," he said. "Man, there are going to be some lawsuits. You don't think some of those fans aren't going to want some NBA money?"
Police prevented reporters from crossing the loading dock to get to Indiana's locker room or the area where the Pacers' bus was located.
"I'm just embarrassed for our league and disappointed for our young people to see that," Brown said.
Artest has been involved in some bizarre situations, but his latest antics topped them all.
Earlier this month, he was benched for two games for asking Carlisle for time off because of a busy schedule that included promoting a soon-to-be released rap album.
Artest also destroyed television monitors at Madison Square Garden two years ago and missed the team flight to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at Detroit last season.
Before the contest was stopped, Artest had quite a game and the Pacers were dominating the defending NBA champions in their first meeting since the Eastern Conference finals.
"Indiana played great. They deserved to win, but it shouldn't have ended like that," Brown said.
Artest scored 17 of his 24 points in the first quarter and the Pacers led by 20 in the second. Detroit used a 9-0 outburst early in the fourth quarter to close within 82-77, but couldn't get closer.
The next meeting between the two teams is on Christmas Day in Indiana.
Copyright 2005 by ClickOnDetroit.com.
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