Detroit finishes game with five players

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons are having a hard time erasing the memory of one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history.

Two days after several members of the visiting Indiana Pacers
went into the stands at The Palace to fight spectators, the Pistons were left with the aftereffects. They put it all behind them long enough to earn a 117-116 double-overtime victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

"With the playoff mob of media that we have here, you would think it's the Finals," Detroit's Lindsey Hunter said. "I'm already away from (Friday night). I'm not really thinking about it as much. I think everybody else is more than we are."

Tayshaun Prince's dunk with 16.5 seconds left lifted the short-handed Pistons in their first game since the melee that started on the court and got out of control in the seats.

Despite the close contest and fantastic game-winning play, few questions were asked about Sunday's action as reporters from around the country came to suburban Detroit to cover the aftermath of the mayhem.

Security was beefed up and there was a larger police presence at the arena, as well.

"I'm not really excited about doing my job right now," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "I heard one of our trainers say that it isn't much fun going to work, and I can honestly say the same thing."

The Pistons finished the game with just five players because three fouled out and four were suspended for their roles in the melee with the Pacers.

"It got to a point where I thought we were going to play four-on-five," said Antonio McDyess, who had 24 points. "We really tried to just focus on playing basketball because this is our job and all the other stuff is out of our control at this point."

The Pistons had a short bench, but unlike Indiana, they will soon have all their players back.

Detroit's Ben Wallace -- whose shove of Indiana's Ron Artest
after a foul led to the fracas -- drew a six-game ban. Teammates Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell and Derrick Coleman were suspended for one game.

About 30 minutes before Sunday's game, Billups, Campbell and Coleman left the arena.

"I'm going home," said Billups, declining further comment.

Wallace never came to the arena because he knew he would be suspended for at least one game.

Detroit's Richard Hamilton set a team record for most free throws made in a game without missing by going 20-for-20 and tied a Pistons mark for successful free throws. He scored 30 points before fouling out late in regulation. McDyess scored 24 and Rasheed Wallace had 13 before both fouled out.

Charlotte's Jason Kapono scored a career-high 25 points before fouling out in the second overtime. Primoz Brezec scored a career-high 22 for the Bobcats, and Steve Smith added 22.

The Bobcats had chances to be the first expansion team to beat a reigning NBA champion since Portland and Buffalo defeated the New York Knicks during the 1969-70 season. Charlotte is still searching for its first road victory.

"It's not frustrating because we played well and we had a chance to win," Smith said. "It's just disappointing that we couldn't get the win."

Wallace made two 3-pointers in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, with the game tied at 103.

Charlotte went ahead late in the first quarter and didn't trail until McDyess' turnaround early in the first overtime.

With just three reserves, Brown complained to official Bill Kennedy midway through the second quarter about the way the game was called.

"We've got eight guys and you're going to foul everybody out!" Brown shouted.

For their part in the brawl, Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, Pacers teammate Stephen Jackson for 30 games, Jermaine O'Neal for 25, Anthony Johnson for five and Reggie Miller one.

The Palace is one of the most raucous arenas in the NBA, but following the melee -- and with an expansion team in town in November -- the fans were subdued until the final minutes of regulation when Detroit rallied.

"Once it got tight, that's when the fans got into it," said Wallace, who like most of his teammates didn't want to talk about the suspensions.

The number of armed police was doubled to about 20 in the arena, and other arena security personnel was increased by about 25 percent.

When the Pistons and Bobcats headed to their locker rooms, they were escorted by police -- one officer in front of the teams and another behind.

The Pistons plan to add a protective covering over the tunnels leading to the locker rooms, but don't want to line the court with police and security personnel or put up a physical barrier.

Pistons CEO Tom Wilson said there is a good chance that tickets would be revoked from any season ticket-holder who was involved in the fight.

Detroit's next home game is Friday night against the Miami Heat.

Game notes
Charlotte's Brevin Knight left the game after diving for a loose ball with Hunter in the final minute of regulation and
watched the overtimes from the bench because he aggravated a wrist injury ... Hamilton shares the team record for made free throws with three Pistons.