Nov. 19, 2015
Nov. 19, 2004, Pistons Vs. Pacers: 'Malice At The Palace'
It is hard to believe that it has been 11 years since the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers were involved in 'Malice at the Palace’.
It was indeed the craziest night of my long sports writing career. I was a newspaper columnist assigned to cover the match up of the Eastern Conference powers. The Pistons and Pacers were the best teams in the East, and the rivalry was heated.
The Pistons knocked the Pacers out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Finals the previous season, on their way to winning the 2004 NBA title.
In many ways, they were carbon copies of each other. Tremendous defensively, and efficient offensively. A lot of that had to do with the fact coach Larry Brown’s imprint was on both teams. He coached the Pacers from 1994 to 1998, and now he was in Detroit (2003-2005). Of course, 'LB,' "Pound for Pound the best coach in the NBA," as the Pistons' Rasheed Wallace called him, was always moving around.
But, the man could coach his ass off. And his teams played, tough, physical, smart basketball.
On this night, the Pacers got the best of the Pistons. However, with just 45 seconds to go in a game that was already decided, the Pistons’ Ben Wallace and Indy’s Ron Artest got into a shoving match. Both benches emptied, and things quickly deteriorated into utter chaos.
Some guy in the stands threw a cup of beer on Artest, who promptly went into the stands after him. This all happened right near my seat on press row. The same guy who threw beer on Artest, was the same guy who was taunting him long before the game even started. The entire arena erupted into mass hysteria after that. It was one of the ugliest scenes ever at a American sporting event.
The carnage of the fight was heavy for the Pacers. Artest was suspended 86 games, starters Stephen Jackson (36 games) and All-Star center Jermaine O'Neal (15 games) were punished, too. Ben Wallace was suspended six games. There were legal charges and law suits that ultimately all got settled out of court. But the Pacers could never re-group from the fight. The Pistons went on to win the Eastern Conference title, and play San Antonio in the 2005 Finals, where they lost in seven games.