MINNEAPOLIS — A fight broke out between Austin Rivers and Mo Bamba on Friday night at Target Center leading to five players being ejected in a wild brawl that started on the Orlando bench before making its way into a frenzied pile of bodies after Jalen Suggs threw Rivers to the ground.
Bamba popped up off the bench to fight Rivers after the two exchanged words and suspensions are sure to follow. Jaden McDaniels and Taurean Prince were also ejected for the Wolves, while Suggs joined Bamba in getting tossed. Rivers declined to specifically say what provoked him to confront Bamba. “I’m not a snitch,” said Rivers.
“I had got a good three, missed that, and I just heard language on their bench but it was just by one dude. He had said something the play before, as well. I’m not really going to get into what he said. I’m not going to snitch on the dude or whatever but I didn’t like the way he was talking to me — for no reason, too. I don’t even know that dude. I don’t know anything about him. Obviously, I just know he’s a player for the Magic. He proceeded to talk so the next possession I just went down there and said pretty much just keep it respectful bro. I’m not trying to portray myself as some like wannabe tough guy, that’s not even my M.O. For anybody that knows me, I’m not gonna let somebody disrespect me or talk crazy.”
A Magic source said the comment made to Rivers was “this ain’t high-school no more,” which he obviously took exception to.
Part of the conversation @orlandosports had in the locker room with Markelle Fultz, who was sitting next to Mo Bamba on the bench before Mo and Austin Rivers got into an altercation that led to a fight. pic.twitter.com/lGQHtCJTDk— Khobi Price (@khobi_price) February 4, 2023
Rivers was clearly upset he let his teammates down afterwards in another loss to a bottom feeder. The Wolves are now 5-7 vs. the bottom-5 teams in the league, per Alan Horton, continuing their trend of bad losses to the worst competition this season.
“I just feel bad that I got thrown out of a game and I feel like I let my team down. And in the process, two other guys — important players for our team [McDaniels and Prince] — got thrown out as well.”
Rivers had visible red marks on his neck during his postgame media availability from being grabbed by Suggs. He took exception to the way Suggs came for his neck. “That’s what bothered me most. That’s the only thing that’s kind of hurting right now, that someone came and grabbed me by my neck. That’s a big no-no.”
“He’s coming full speed and grabbing my neck like that. Thankfully, nothing really serious happened but other than that I am fine, you know, he’s harmless.”
Bamba declined to speak after the game. “I have nothing to say,” he told Magic reporters. Rivers, on the other hand, did have plenty to offer up in his 7+ minute interview.
“I don’t know him. I don’t know anything about that dude,” said Rivers. “I know a song was made about him a long time ago, that’s about it. I have nothing negative to say about him. I love Orlando. That’s the city I live in, those are my people, so I don’t know what he thinks he got going on. I got nothing negative to say about him. I wish him nothing but the best of luck with the Magic. I cheer on the Magic ironically enough when they’re not playing against us obviously because I want the city to do well.”
“This isn’t a cool moment for me,” Rivers continued. He views himself as the veteran leader of this Wolves team and wasn’t the leader they needed in this contentious moment. “It doesn’t make me feel good.”
Fight Night in Target Center pic.twitter.com/9wEt7Ose1Q— Beyond the RK (@beyondtheRK) February 4, 2023
The tempers didn’t end on the hardwood, either. Numerous sources reported the two had to be restrained from one another in the tunnel back by the locker rooms.
I'm told both Bamba & Rivers had to be restrained from going at each other in the tunnel as well— Pierre Noujaim (@TheNoujFOX9) February 4, 2023
Bamba ran all the way around the tunnel after the ejection and was stopped. A couple of officers and a couple security camped out to make sure no one crossed lines… ♂️ https://t.co/KfrhMoy3op— Michael Grady (@Grady) February 4, 2023
The fight overshadowed another bad loss by Minnesota where they went down by as much as 22 points. Some fans even hit the exits early during a timeout at the 8-minute mark in disgust before the Wolves made a big D’Angelo Russell and Luka Garza-infused run to make things close before ultimately running out of steam in the 127-120 loss.
Rookie phenom Paola Banchero shot only 3-16 and scored 11 points with 4 turnovers. Franz Wagner wasn’t good either! Huh? But his bad night was supported by excellent contributions across the Magic roster. Cole Anthony and Moritz Wagner (two Wolves killers) scored 20 and 19 apiece off the bench. Markelle Fultz added 15, and Bol Bol scored 14. It was a collective approach with a humming offense that finished 52.9% from the field.
Russell finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. But it was a tremendouly uneven two halves. His defense was once again off in the first half and he was coughing up turnovers left and right (six total on the night). He was phenomenal in keeping them alive in the fourth and responded with a massive final quarter that at least gave them a chance. He also was locked in defensively; it was a weird night for him.
Anthony Edwards, after not being named to the All-Star game, struggled to get things going all night with 19 points on 5-15 shooting and four turnovers. Edwards has been sensational but this was a rare bad performance by him — the Magic made things very difficult by throwing two defenders at Ant all through the night. Rudy Gobert finished with 15 points and seven boards in 26 minutes.
“They basically put two on [Ant] all the time. I don’t think it was a question of him not having the ball enough,” Finch said in response to a question about Edwards maybe not having the ball in his hands as much as he usual does tonight.
Orlando had 13 offensive rebounds and 28 second chance points. There was just way too many extra chances as the Wolves struggled badly to close out defensive possessions.That was a killer part of this game, along with Kyle Anderson tweaking his back and leaving the contest after only five minutes of play — once again showing his ultimate worth to this team that absolutely needs him to win.
Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers breaks down what led to the fight between him and Mo Bamba. #RaisedByWolves | #NBA pic.twitter.com/o0aQsBp3rR— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) February 4, 2023
Chris Finch called on Matt Ryan to give the Wolves a shooting spark ... he scored 8 points and gave them a pretty good 15 minutes. This is also a great reminder how badly they need Karl-Anthony Towns back. Just a bit of an upgrade there when the team is searching for shooters to space.
In the end, the game will be remembered for the Rivers-Bamba brawl and whatever fallout comes. I’ll leave you all with a game of pick your worst loss of the season...
Some Wolves losses this season...— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) February 4, 2023
SAS by 11
SAS by 9
CHA by 2
WAS by 15
DET by 12
DET by 17
HOU by 5
And they're down by 20 at home to Orlando right now