AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Indiana Pacers star Stephen Jackson looked up in the stands and shook his head at fans fighting each other.
"When I saw that, I said, 'Hurry up and get this game over with and let's get out of here,'●" Jackson said.
After the start was delayed for 1 hour, 25 minutes because of a telephoned threat that there was a bomb in Indiana's locker room, Austin Croshere scored 15 points and Reggie Miller had 14 to lead the Pacers to a 94-81 victory last night.
Miller said it was a disturbing situation, and he lashed out at the NBA and commissioner David Stern, who came down hard on the Pacers for brawling with fans the last time they played in suburban Detroit.
"The league ought to be ashamed of themselves to let security be as lax as it is around here," Miller said. "We're always going to get the brunt of it as players, especially this year for this organization.
"David Stern has to take a hard look in the mirror every morning when he wakes up on his decision, the way he penalized us and the way he penalized the Pistons."
Chauncey Billups led Detroit with 23 points and Rasheed Wallace had 15. The Pistons had won 12 straight at home.
Auburn Hills chief of police Doreen Olko said The Palace - the site of the melee between the teams four months ago - received a call about an hour before the scheduled start with a very specific threat that there was a bomb in the locker room.
The room had been searched in the morning with dogs, and was searched again later in the afternoon. At no point was anything found, and the building was not evacuated.Security was posted outside the door at all times.
"Nothing was found," Olko said. "We are completely confident that the Pacers' locker room and that this entire building is safe. If not, we wouldn't be here."
The Pacers went on and off their bus about three times, according to their driver, and once left the loading dock and drove to a far end of the parking lot. Olko said it was the team's decision to board the bus.
Indiana coach Rick Carlisle left it up to players to decide whether to play.
"After what we've been through earlier in the year, we need to be concerned about safety," Carlisle said.
The Pistons had what they called "playoff-level security" in place for Indiana's first game at The Palace since the Nov. 19 brawl between the teams at the arena that spilled into the stands, and back onto the court. Indiana won the infamous game 97-82.
Several Pacers mingled with the crowd before the game, signing autographs, and Jermaine O'Neal even took pictures with fans on his way to the court at halftime. O'Neal, out for the rest of the regular season with a shoulder injury, was suspended for 15 games for his role in one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history.
"There's always one or two who make the whole place look bad, but I'm fine with Detroit," O'Neal said.
Jackson, who was suspended for 30 games after swinging at fans in the stands, had 12 points and was booed every time he touched the ball.
The Pacers took control with a 7-0 run late in the second quarter, giving them a 43-35 lead. Indiana opened the fourth quarter with a 14-4 run for a 17-point lead.
After the pregame drama, the game was dull - until a confrontation with 5:50 left.
Detroit's Ben Wallace fouled Scot Pollard at the top of the key, then Pollard lightly swung an elbow at Wallace's chest. Wallace responded with harsh words and the two were face to face before being separated. Pollard was called for a technical.
The fracas in November started when Ron Artest fouled Wallace, and Wallace reacted with a hard, two-handed shove to Artest's chin. Artest was suspended for the season for charging into the stands after being hit with a full cup.
With 1:59 left in the game Friday night, fans were fighting each other in the upper section of the lower level and one man was carried out of the seating area by several security guards.
Fans were permitted to buy alcohol until after the third quarter, following the usual policy.
The 22,076 spectators in the arena were never told why there was a delay.
Shortly before the scheduled 8:10 p.m. start, the public address announcer told the fans "due to unforeseen circumstances," the game would be delayed.
"Everyone else knew what was going on before we did," Megan Tessmai of Davison said. "I called a friend of mine in Flint and he had just seen on TV that there was a bomb threat in the Pacers locker room. So we were the last ones to know."
While the Pacers were getting on and off their bus, the Pistons lingered in their locker room and a room where their families gather.
"To be honest, I was hoping the game would get changed to another day, because I was getting tired," Detroit's Tayshaun Prince said. "I was falling asleep back here."
Detroit has lost three straight, one shy of its season high.
"We're playing real bad," Ben Wallace said. "We just don't have the energy and intensity that we need."
The Pistons were without leading scorer Richard Hamilton (sprained ankle) for the third straight game and coach Larry Brown for the seventh game in a row. Brown is out indefinitely after undergoing a procedure related to the hip surgery that caused him to miss six games in November.
Detroit and Indiana split the season series.
The NBA playoffs start April 23. If they started now, Detroit would play Indiana in the first round, one season after the Pistons beat the Pacers in the conference finals before winning the title.
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