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Published: Saturday, 3/26/2005

Palace bomb call a hoax Game between Pistons, Pacers delayed 1 hour, 25 minutes


AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Fans and players stayed where they were supposed to last night at The Palace.

There was no hint of the chaos that enveloped the Indiana Pacers the last time they had visited the Detroit Pistons - a Nov. 19 contest that ended with a five-minute brawl, players suspended and fans headed for court.

This time, the drama was provided by a bomb threat that delayed the start of the game for 1 hour, 25 minutes. The Pacers won the game, 94-81.

Indiana coach Rick Carlisle - a former Pistons coach - credited his players with being mentally tough after they were told a bomb threat specifically targeted their locker room. And he said he still has fond feelings for the Detroit area.

"On Nov. 19, it was one person," Carlisle said. "Tonight it was one person. You can't put that on a whole city."

Auburn Hills police chief Doreen Olko said the switchboard at The Palace received a call from an unknown subject with a very specific threat that there was a bomb in the Indiana Pacers locker room.

The locker room had been searched yesterday morning with bomb dogs, and it was searched again later in the afternoon. After the threat was called in at about 7:19 p.m., Olko said the locker room was searched again.

Security was posted outside the door at all times after the initial search in the morning and during the rest of the day.

"Nothing was found," Olko said. "We are completely confident that the Pacers' locker room and that this entire building is safe.''

The Pacers organization decided to have their players leave the building, Olko said.

The Pacers went on and off their bus about three times, according to their bus driver.

The arena was already nearly full, and fans were not evacuated. The crowd cheered when the big overhead TV screens were tuned into the Michigan State-Duke NCAA tournament game at about 8:30 p.m.

"I had no idea what the delay was no one told us anything," said Keith Hinshaw of Rochester. "I'm glad they didn't [evacuate] - it gave me a chance to see the Michigan State game."

The Pistons had already planned what they called "playoff-level security" for the game.

Prior to the bomb threat, it appeared to be business as usual for an NBA regular season game.

Both the Detroit and Indiana franchises were eager to put the ugly November incident in the past. The only dust-up occured when Detroit's Ben Wallace and Indiana's Scot Pollard bumped and exchanged words with 5:50 left in the game.

"It's a closed deal," said Jermaine O'Neal, one of the Pacers involved in the fight, said before the game. "You move on."

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