By Antonio Gonzalez/The Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. — Rarely does an April game with little at stake have so much fight.
This one had almost too much.
Vince Carter had 26 points and seven rebounds, and the Orlando Magic beat the Memphis Grizzles 107-92 Sunday night after an on-court scuffle.
The scrum between Matt Barnes and Hasheem Thabeet escalated into a shoving match involving nearly 10 players. There were six individual technical fouls by game’s end, plenty of pop — but no punches — for an Easter matchup that had little meaning in the standings.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of fight until everything went down,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “And then we got a little bit of fight.”
Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson scored 18 points apiece for the Magic, who are all but sure to win their third straight Southeast Division title and the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed. One Orlando win or Atlanta loss will seal the division.
Zach Randolph had 24 points and 18 rebounds and Rudy Gay added 18 points to help Memphis rally from a 14-point deficit before falling short. The Grizzlies have lost four of their last five and are already assured of missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
It might have been tough to tell by the aggressiveness.
Barnes was called for an offensive foul for pushing off on Thabeet on a layup attempt with 6:54 remaining in the third quarter. Barnes got up to protest the call and bumped the Memphis center, who shoved Barnes, who came back with an even harder push square in Thabeet’s chest.
Barnes said he was on his way to the official — or as Van Gundy put it, Barnes “was going to get a technical” — and Thabeet likely misunderstood his intentions.
“I had nothing to say or really do with him. He didn’t make the call, the ref did,” Barnes said. “So I was going to go say something to the ref, and he may have thought I was coming to him and he pushed me, and I kind of reacted in the wrong way.”
A shoving match ensued with nearly all 10 players involved near the baseline, including Carter pushing Thabeet and Memphis’ O.J. Mayo extending his arm at Barnes.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Thabeet said. “I thought I got pushed. I turned around and asked, ‘What’s happening?’ And everybody’s overreacting to the situation.
“He’s a good guy,” Thabeet added. “I actually consider him a good friend of mine. Before the game, he came over and we said hi to each other.”
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins came off the bench — a few steps away from the scrum under the basket — to help separate players.
“I just went out there to keep guys from getting hurt,” Hollins said. “And when I got out there, I was trying to keep myself from getting hurt.”
Barnes was called for two technicals and ejected, and Carter was assessed a technical. Thabeet and Mayo were each whistled for a technical.
“Just security,” Carter joked of his role, “trying to break everything up.”
Suddenly, this one had plenty of scrap.
The Grizzlies went ahead by five a few minutes after the scuffle, and there was plenty of pushing and pounding. No more resting starters, either.
The Magic then went on a 17-6 run that was highlighted by a 3-pointer by Mickael Pietrus, ending the third quarter with a 75-69 lead.
Orlando took a 10-point lead about halfway through the fourth quarter and wouldn’t let that cushion slip. And then the frustration mounted for Memphis.
Gay added to the technical count when he was whistled for throwing the ball to the side of the court in the fourth, delaying the game.
The Magic became the first team this season to beat every team in the NBA. Dallas is the only other team that has a chance to accomplish that feat this year if the Mavericks win at Portland on Friday.
Van Gundy said he learned of the stat when he first arrived at work Monday — at 6:30 a.m.
“I’ve got to have something to do all day,” Van Gundy said, chuckling, before turning serious again. “Everybody thinks that they can beat everybody in this league, and they’ll talk about it. We’ve literally done it.”
NOTES: Each team also had two defensive 3-second technicals, making for 10 total technicals. … Gay said he was feeling back stiffness after the game but should be fine. … Magic C Dwight Howard said he got hit 3 times between his two eyes and that they were “pulsating.” But he said he should be fine.