Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Punches thrown during massive Timberwolves-Magic brawl; Austin Rivers, Mo Bamba among five players ejected

Five players were ejected from the Orlando Magic’s 127-120 road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night following an on-court altercation that began between Orlando center Mo Bamba and Wolves guard Austin Rivers. Both Bamba and Rivers were ejected from the game, along with Magic guard Jalen Suggs and Timberwolves forwards Taurean Prince and Jaden McDaniels.

The altercation began when Rivers walked off the court toward players on the Magic sideline. Bamba then got up off the bench and threw a punch toward Rivers as they locked arms and stumbled onto the court. It looked like Rivers also threw punches in Bamba’s direction as he was dragged to the floor. Multiple players from both teams then engaged in the altercation, which resulted in the ejections.

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You can see in the second angle here that, while the ball is in play, Rivers jogs off the court toward the Orlando bench, which sets off the chain of events.

“I’m not making any judgment on Austin, what he did. I have no idea what started it or what happened,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said after the game. “They had a guy come off the bench and throw a punch, which is one of the most egregious things you can do in the league right now — I mean, in these situations. But yeah, I make no judgment on Austin.”  

Rivers explained after the game that he did not appreciate the way that Bamba and Magic guard Markelle Fultz reacted to his missed 3-pointer on an earlier possession.

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“I’m not really gonna get into what he said. I’m not gonna snitch on the dude or whatever, but I just didn’t like the way he was talking to me — for no reason, too,” Rivers said. “I don’t even know that dude, I don’t know anything about him. Obviously I just know he’s a player for the Magic. And he proceeded to talk, so that next possession when I went down there I just said, ‘You know, just pretty much just keep it respectful, bro.’ I’m not trying to portray myself as some wanna-be tough guy. That’s not even my MO. But, for anybody who knows me, I’m not going to let somebody disrespect me or talk crazy.”

Bamba declined to comment after the game, but he posted this image on his Instagram story to his 700,00-plus followers:

Rivers added that he has no ill will toward Bamba or any of the Magic players, but he did not like the way that Suggs pulled him by his neck.

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“Suggs, I think, grabbed me by my neck. That’s what bothered me the most,” Rivers said. “That’s the only thing that’s kind of hurting right now, is somebody came in grabbed me by my neck — that’s a big no-no. … He’s coming full speed grabbing my neck like that like that. …Thankfully, nothing really serious happened.”

The altercation comes just one night after Dillon Brooks and Donovan Mitchell got into a dust-up during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 128-113 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. On Friday, Brooks was suspended one game for striking Mitchell in the groin, while Mitchell received a $20,000 fine for throwing the basketball at Brooks.

There will assuredly be further punishment for at least Rivers and Bamba, as Rivers appeared to be the instigator and Bamba broke NBA rules by entering the court from the bench. We will see which, if any, other players are levied fines and/or suspensions.

“I’m not some thug. I’m not a tough guy. I’m not a badass. I’m not any of those things, man,” Rivers said. “I try to come to work and do my job. But I’ve been raised to stick up for myself, and if someone’s disrespecting me like that, I made a point just to say to him something, and he got up like that. And after that, I did what I had to do.”

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