MINNEAPOLIS — A fight and beating ensued during Friday night’s game between the Orlando Magic and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Five players were ejected after the brawl that began late in the third quarter outside Orlando bench. Minnesota guard Austin Rivers and Magic center Mo Bamba were the first players involved, and it spilled over to involve several others on the court.
Rivers, Jaden McDaniels and Taurean Prince were ejected from the Timberwolves. Jalen Suggs was thrown along with Bamba for Orlando, who won 127-120.
“It’s not a cool moment for me,” Rivers said after the game. “I’m embarrassed. I’m the oldest on the team. I consider myself the leader of the team or one of the leaders of the team. It was a weird game and I don’t think that helped at all. If everything at the moment, I’m just [ticked off] that we lost and that I had [something] to do with. It doesn’t make me feel good.”
Bamba and Suggs could not be reached for comment after the game.
“Of course you want to stand behind your teammate and you have to be a professional at the same time,” said Orlando center Moritz Wagner, who was also involved in a skirmish with Detroit in December.
“So that’s a challenge for a young team like us. I think we did a good job this time compared to last time. So, yeah, I don’t really know. It’s an odd dynamic to be in these kinds of situations, and it’s not really the best look. You want to be professional. At the same time, there’s something in me that appreciates the fact that the team sticks together like this.
Wagner appeared to be knocked out in that fight with the Pistons in Detroit. Wagner and Detroit’s Killian Hayes and Hamidou Diallo were all ejected.
That night, the Rivers battle started right in front of the Magic bank while the game was played across the court. Bamba came off the bench and Rivers threw punches at him. Suggs later pulled Rivers away and swung him to court. McDaniels and Prince joined the scrum.
“Your husband came off the bench and threw a punch,” said Timberwolves coach Chris Finch. “Pretty outrageous. Then it’s a hand-to-hand fight, and somehow our boys are punished much worse. One was sent because he wasn’t a peacekeeper and what our boys were doing.”
The altercation appeared to stem from conversations at the magic bench, specifically Bamba. A few moments earlier, Rivers missed a 3-point attempt in front of the Orlando bench, and Bamba and Markelle Fultz responded to the miss.
Rivers said he reached out to the 7ft, 231lb Bamba for his comments.
“I’m not going to rat on the guy or whatever, but I just didn’t like the way he talked to me,” said Rivers, who is listed at 6-4 and 200 pounds. “Even for no reason. I don’t even know this guy. I don’t know anything about him. Obviously, all I know is that he’s a player for Magic. And he kept talking, so next possession, when I left I just pretty much said : ‘Just be respectful, brother.'”
Rivers later added, “I went up to him and squeezed him, and at this point it can go one of two ways. I didn’t think we would get into a fight. But if you get up so quickly and raise your hands – he threw a punch and missed, luckily. At this point I have to protect myself. Nobody worries about him.”
When asked what Bamba said to Rivers, Fultz told reporters it was “normal rubbish, nothing disrespectful or crazy.”
“It was just … people talking trash when someone shoots to the side,” Fultz said. “We were just having fun, talking [trash]. Same thing they do on their side. I don’t know if it was something [Rivers] to do with or something, but he got extremely angry, and that’s what he decided to do to get revenge. I don’t think Mo did anything crazy or said anything crazy.”
The fight came the night after an altercation between Memphis Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell.
Brooks swung and punched Mitchell in the groin in Thursday’s third quarter after the Grizzlies guard fell to the ground. Mitchell retaliated by throwing the ball at Brooks and then shoving him.
Both players were left out of Cleveland’s 128-113 win. Afterwards, Mitchell accused Brooks of being a dirty player.
The NBA on Friday announced penalties for both players, with Brooks suspended for a game without pay and Mitchell fined $20,000.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.