<
>

Tempers flare after Lakers topple Pacers

3/2/2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal and Brad Miller got along just fine. It was Kobe Bryant and Reggie Miller who got into a
fight.

Reggie Miller and Bryant were walking toward each other moments
after the buzzer ending the Los Angeles Lakers' 96-84 victory over
the Pacers on Friday night when Bryant apparently took a swing at
the Indiana guard.

The two All-Stars tangled, and the skirmish spilled over onto the scorers' table, with the Lakers -- including O'Neal -- trying to pull Reggie Miller's teammates away from the pile.

Reggie Miller wasn't talking after the game. Bryant wasn't available either, but issued a statement through team spokesman John Black saying, "If somebody comes at me, I'm going to defend myself."

Several Lakers and Pacers shoved and jawed, but the punching apparently was limited to Bryant and Reggie Miller. None of their blows seemed to do much damage.

There had been no obvious trouble between the two during the game, nor was there any apparent animosity between O'Neal and Indiana's Brad Miller, who was with Chicago when the Lakers center took a swing at him Jan. 12.

The game was O'Neal's first against him since.

The NBA suspended the Los Angeles center for three games because of the haymaker that grazed Brad Miller's ear.

O'Neal had 33 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Lakers, and
Bryant added 25 points. Robert Horry had nine points -- including a
3-pointer that gave the Lakers an 87-79 lead with 1:51 left to play
-- and 11 rebounds.

Even the players and coaches weren't exactly sure what started the fight between Bryant and Reggie Miller, who had five points on 2-for-10 shooting, including 1-for-8 on 3-pointers.

"I think sometimes we get fed up. Shaq's had a situation this year, and now so has Kobe. We have to make sure that we make them (other teams) respect us," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said.

Indiana coach Isiah Thomas said words apparently were exchanged, "And I saw Kobe take a swing."

"Before I knew it, everyone was trying to grab each other and hold each other and make peace. I don't know what they were saying or what it was about," Thomas said.

Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said: "It was a hotly contested game, and a very physical game. I imagine there was a lot of talking going on. After the game, it looked like Kobe and Miller lined up and went after each other."

Jackson said the NBA would "more than likely" hand Bryant a suspension for his role in the fight.

Thomas said he wasn't sure that Miller would be punished.

"I don't know if Reggie should be suspended. I didn't really
see him throw a punch, and if he didn't swing, then you're allowed
to grab the guy that's swinging at you," Thomas said.

Jermaine O'Neal had 18 points, just four in the second half, and
10 rebounds for Indiana. Ron Artest has 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Brad Miller also had 10 rebounds, and he scored nine points.

O'Neal earlier said he considered the January skirmish with Brad
Miler a thing of the past, and did not intend to retaliate unless
he was provoked again. He approached Brad Miller, acquired by the
Pacers earlier this month, before tipoff Friday and the two tapped
fists in a friendly gesture.

O'Neal's three-game suspension cost him more than $700,000 in
salary, and he was fined $15,000 by the NBA for throwing the
roundhouse right in the fourth quarter of the Bulls' 106-104
overtime win at Chicago nearly two months ago.

Brad Miller was suspended for one game and fined $7,500 for
committing the flagrant foul that led to O'Neal's haymaker. The
Bulls' Charles Oakley was suspended for two games -- one for
accumulating too many flagrant foul points; the other for his
simultaneous flagrant foul against O'Neal -- and fined $10,000.

Brad Miller is just one of the new faces on the Pacers, a changed team from the one the Lakers beat 109-90 on Jan. 9.

Indiana acquired Brad Miller, Artest, Kevin Ollie and Ron Mercer
in a Feb. 19 trade with Chicago, giving the Bulls Jalen Rose,
Travis Best, Norm Richardson and a conditional second-round draft
pick.

The new-look Pacers gave the Lakers a run for their money until the fourth quarter. Although they took their only lead of the game at 70-69 with 2½ minutes gone in the fourth quarter, the Pacers missed 12 of their first 14 shots in the period and went a stretch of 6:22 without a field goal.

Game notes
Los Angeles F Samaki Walker, his ailing right elbow slow to
heal, is doubtful for Sunday's game against Houston. ... Los
Angeles beat the Pacers 109-90 in Indiana on Jan. 9, when Bryant
scored 31 points. ... The Lakers are 25-4 against the Pacers in Los
Angeles and 43-14 overall.