|Sunday, March 3
Updated: March 4, 5:03 PM ET
Miller, Bryant suspended two games each for fight
ESPN.com news services
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Indiana Pacers reacted angrily, and the Los Angeles Lakers calmly Sunday to the NBA's decision to suspend Reggie Miller and Kobe Bryant two games apiece for their fight at the end of a game.
Both players also were fined -- Bryant $12,500 and Miller $10,000 -- for one of the NBA's higher-profile fights in recent seasons. It occurred shortly after the final buzzer of the Los Angeles Lakers' 96-84 victory over the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on Friday night.
"I am extremely disappointed," Miller said in a statement issued before the Pacers' game against the Sacramento Kings. "I was confident the league, after reviewing the tape and interviewing those involved, would see it was clear that I was neither the instigator nor the aggressor in this incident.
"Kobe has other issues he has to deal with. This had nothing to do with me or the basketball game played on Friday evening."
The NBA suspended Bryant for "throwing a punch and fighting" and Miller for "retaliating against Bryant and fighting."
The Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal, who wore Bryant's jersey during the national anthem and player introductions before Los Angeles' game against Houston on Sunday night, backed Bryant up, saying, "I'll hold the fort down. He doesn't have to apologize to me. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."
O'Neal was suspended for three games in January for swinging at Brad Miller, then with Chicago.
Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said Bryant spoke to his teammates earlier Sunday, explaining what happened rather than apologizing.
"In the regard of team, perhaps it (the fight) was a selfish thing to do because it jeopardizes our team at a time when we're trying to get ourselves on track at the end of the season," Jackson said. "But you never know what goes on out on that court unless you're there.
"I wouldn't say that everybody's happy that he's missing the game. No one's all right with that. But we understand what he felt was as much as he could take."
Pacers coach Isiah Thomas, who said after the scuffle that he didn't think Miller would be suspended, was surprised when he was.
"It makes absolutely no sense to me. It just doesn't add up. We lose one of our most valuable guys for two games for something that wasn't his fault. We were shocked," Thomas said.
Bryant will miss the Lakers' home games Sunday against the Houston Rockets and Tuesday against the New Jersey Nets. Miller will the game Sunday against the Kings and the home game Tuesday against the Orlando Magic.
The fight took place near center court, several seconds after Bryant attempted a 3-pointer over Miller in the game's closing seconds.
Miller appeared to be walking toward Bryant after the game, apparently trash-talking, when Bryant suddenly threw a punch. The melee spilled over onto the scorers' table before order was restored.
Thomas said words apparently were exchanged.
"I saw Kobe take a swing," he said. "Before I knew it, everyone was trying to grab each other and hold each other and make peace. I don't know what they were saying or what it was about."