BOSTON - What started as a battle on the court between divisional foes regressed to simply a battle, as Rajon Rondo led a shoving match with Kris Humphries that resulted in an all-out brawl between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night inside TD Garden.
"I don't really have a reaction," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. "Honestly I kind of saw it late and ran in just to clean it up. I haven't looked at it on film yet, so I don't have a lot to say about it."
Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett hard going to the basket, drawing the furor of Rondo, who immediately shoved him. The fight spilled into the third row seats under the baseline, and players from both sides came to the aid of their teammates. Wallace then got mixed up with Garnett, and it would take minutes to separate the players.
"Just a hard foul," Garnett said of Humphries' foul. "I thought that the antics after it was a bit extra, but a hard foul."
After the officials watched the play several times, three players were ejected -- Rondo, Humphries and Wallace. With the ejection, Rondo's 37-game double-digit assist streak came to a screeching halt, as he finished the night with six points, three assists and two steals in 18 minutes. Humphries's night concluded with three points and four rebounds while Gerald Wallace had five points, three steals and three assists.
"It was a pushing match," noted Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "That's all I really saw."
One of the referees, crew chief James Carper, was made available to the media to shed some light onto what they saw as well as the decisions they made following the fight.
"Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul," Carper said. "And when he and Humphries go into the stands, they are involved in a fight. Fighting is an automatic ejection."
Carper added on Humphries' ejection: "When Kevin goes to the basket, he is re-routed by Humphries. So we had a personal foul for the re-route. Kevin is trying to continue -- to get a continuation by shooting -- and now Humphries hits him. Because the whistle blew, it was a dead-ball situation, and that's a technical foul for contact during a dead ball. ... What proceeds after that is a fight, so he's ejected."
While Rondo's actions were uncalled for, most saw it as him reacting to the additional contact given by Humphries to Garnett and backing up his teammate, but that's not a situation a player wants to get into, according to Pierce.
"You don't want get into an altercation where it's going to cost you any games," Pierce said. "The best you can do is try to play mediator in there. But you know, when you're in a battle, it's tough sometimes. Elbows are thrown, guys get pushed. Sometimes you just react. It's in a lot of people's nature. You know, if I come and push somebody, the natural reaction is to push you back, the natural reaction is to hit you back. It's tough when you're in the heat of the battle. That's what the game is sometimes."
"We back each other up here," added Garnett. "It's probably one of the most memorable physical games. This game had a lot of physicality parts to it to begin the game first off. It will probably go un-noted, but if you watch the game, it's obvious. If you were present at the game, you saw them. But that's the way [Brooklyn] plays, this is their style, that's what they're trying to establish about themselves and as a team, we have to adjust to it."
The league will review the incident in the coming days, with a decision on a suspension and/or fine likely to come at some point on Thursday, and the possibility is that Boston will be without Rondo for at least a game or two.
"It's what it is, man," Garnett said about losing Rondo. "Obviously, we are [worried], but it is what it is. You have to protect each other, and we consider ourself family around here, and that's just the way it is.
Garnett would later say, "This is what it is. This ain't the Girl Scouts. This ain't the Boy Scouts. This is the NBA. It's what it is. There's going to be a physical part of it, and everybody's going to have to adjust to it or you're not going to be able to be here. Period. Point blank."
Nets players had their own opinions of the foul, as well, and they echoed the sentiments about having their teammates' backs.
"That's what family and brotherhood is all about, that was probably the biggest thing I've seen so far," said Andray Blatche. "We all had each other's backs out there on that court. ... I'm not surprised at all. When that happened I saw Rondo going at Humph I knew everybody was about to have his back."
"Just protect yourself at times," added Nets guard Joe Johnson. "We were in a situation where we had our brother ou there battling and he had to protect himself. From that aspect, like I said, it's pretty understandable. We're not a team that's going to be pushed around or back down from anybody. I was proud of our guys tonight and the way we fought."
Oh, and in case anyone cares, the Nets wound up beating the Celtics, 95-83.
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