If you're a Minnesota fan, I'm guessing you had the entire season flash before your eyes: had Kevin Garnett's feeble attempt to punch Antonio McDyess actually landed, he would have earned an automatic suspension and sent the T'Wolves' season into a tailspin. Instead, KG's backpedaling saved the day.
In case you missed it, the whole thing started after Rip hit a runner in the paint to tie the game with 5:18 left. Rip drew the foul, and after the play ended McDyess gave Mark Madsen a little something extra as they untangled themselves. As I wrote on the FanHouse:
That's when the AP says McDyess gave Madsen "a forearm shiver," though from the eyes of this biased Pistons fan I'd say it looked like McDyess simply, yet emphatically, shook himself loose from a defender clutching both of his arms. Whatever you want to call it, Madsen went sprawling to the ground. And somewhere, separated by hundreds of miles and two continents, Bill Laimbeer and Vlade Divac shared a very special moment.
What happens next? Let's take a look, courtesy of (who else?) Natalie from Need4Sheed:
Bad Boys era fight it wasn't. I really like Garnett as a player, and I commend him for sticking up for his teammate -- it's just a shame he didn't notice that his teammate completely flopped. (And while I can appreciate a good flop now and then, it's pretty lame to follow it up by dramatically laying on the ground while your teammate comes to your defense -- watch how long it takes Madsen to pull himself off the floor.) [Update: Madsen blogged about this after the game -- I wish he said something we could make fun of, but he actually shows a lot of class. I hate it when guys do that.]
In any event, the little shoving match worked out in Detroit's favor -- with Minnesota's head coach Dwayne Casey already benching Ricky Davis in the third quarter, the T'Wolves were without their top two leading scorers for the rest of the fourth and two overtimes. McDyess didn't bait KG (it was the other way around), but he knew his team would have the advantage:
"I know they can win without me. I don't think they can win without K.G.," said McDyess.
McDyess did have his fist semi-cocked, but he never raised his hand above his shoulder and says he never planned on actually throwing a punch -- from the Detroit Free Press:
"I wasn't going to swing, because it was a waste of my time," McDyess said. "What for? I never threw the punch. I wanted to, but I didn't. I thought about all the money."
I admire McDyess's restraint, especially as he was leaving the court -- from the Detroit News:
McDyess said a courtside fan started hollering at him, threatening him and using the ‘N' word.
"That really made me angry and I thought about going after the guy," McDyess said. "I mean, if we get suspended and thrown out, why can't the fan get thrown out if the referee is listening to that. But I just walked away, I wasn't going to do a Ron Artest."
As for the actual game, Minnesota gave Detroit a scare when Mike James hit an out-of-this-world three-pointer with 13 seconds left in the first overtime -- he needed to shoot over two pairs of hands in his face but he got the rainbow to fall without even touching the rim. The fact replays showed his heel touched the sideline was a moot point: the refs missed it and the Pistons were under the gun. But 13 seconds is like an eternity in the NBA: a Rip Hamilton layup, two Randy Foye free throws and a 26-foot Chauncey Billups three-pointer put Detroit into the second OT, where they scored the first four points and never looked back en route to a 104-98 win.
It was a bit overshadowed by the fourth-quarter skirmish and the extra periods, but Chris Webber made his first start and played rather well: 16 points on 8-12 shooting, seven boards and four assists. He played 38 minutes, including seven in the two overtimes. He's obviously getting comfortable but doesn't yet know the whole playbook -- that may have been a reason why he wasn't in the game for the end of the fourth or either overtime. From the Free Press:
"I can't wait until we can really become cohesive and I can run all the plays," Billups said. "I found myself thinking a lot, saying, 'What should I run, what he does he know?' "
Flip Saunders said before the game that he was going to try limiting Rasheed Wallace's minutes to 30, and at the end of regulation Wallace had 34. Aside from being stone-cold (1-6) from three-point land, Wallace was on his game, so he played another 10 minutes in overtime. He finished with 18 points, nine boards and three steals. The downside, though, was that he also picked up his 12th technical in the third quarter.
Rip Hamilton bounced back from his bad game on Wednesday to fill up the entire box score: 26 points, seven boards, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Chauncey Billups scored 28 with eight dimes and a pair of steals.
The bench was quiet, but they better step up tomorrow as the Pistons complete yet another back-to-back set with a match at home against the Kings. Jason Maxiell, who didn't get off the bench the last two games, scored seven on 3-7 shooting with three boards and a block in 15 minutes. He was the only guy off the bench to score aside from McDyess, who scored four in 18 minutes before getting the boot.
This was an ugly game, but it was good to see the Pistons pull it out, especially after the little rut they've been stuck in the last few weeks. And you think the Pistons have drama? Look at what Minnesota is dealing with -- from the Star-Tribune:
[Ricky Davis] left the court and headed through the tunnel after being subbed out with 8:33 left in the third quarter. Forward Justin Reed brought Davis back to the bench.
"I told him, 'A lot of guys get unhappy,'" Reed said. "But it's between him and the coach."
Witnesses close to the bench said Davis refused to go back into the game. Casey said that didn't matter anyway - Davis, who finished with five points in 23 minutes, no longer had the option because the coach decided to stick with others.
"I just decided not to play him. I have that right," Casey said. "I didn't like his focus coming out in the third quarter. ... I decided to go with guys who were competing."