MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After all the talk about the Matt Barnes-Derek Fisher altercation — and Barnes did almost all of the talking — a basketball game broke out at FedExForum.
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With all eyes on Barnes, the Grizzlies forward was on his best behavior Saturday night. He didn’t interact with Fisher at all.
The only fight that took place had to do with the game itself. Playing without Carmelo Anthony (sprained ankle), the Knicks fought the Grizzlies until the fourth quarter, but Memphis controlled the last 12 minutes and won, 103-95. “We couldn’t make enough winning plays in the fourth quarter,” Fisher said.
The score was tied at 73 to start the fourth, but the Knicks (20-22) couldn’t score without Anthony. They had only two field goals in the first 9:55, and the Grizzlies used a 14-2 run to open a 94-79 lead with 3:22 to go.
Kristaps Porzingis scored 17 points, but only one came in the fourth. Kyle O’Quinn added 15 and Derrick Williams had 13.
The Knicks had no answer for Marc Gasol, who scored 24 of his 37 points in the second half and was one point shy of matching his career high. Jeff Green had 18 off the bench. Barnes had two points, nine rebounds and five assists and committed a flagrant foul on Porzingis. Barnes was active in the fourth quarter, grabbing five rebounds. After securing his last one with 9.9 seconds left, he dribbled the clock out with a big smile on his face.
This was the first time Barnes and Fisher have been in the same place since their fight in October at the home of Barnes’ estranged wife. Fisher reportedly is in a relationship with Gloria Govan.
In interviews and on his Instagram page, Barnes has called Fisher “a snitch” and “a snake.” The fans were very pro-Barnes, who got an ovation when he entered the game. Fisher was booed. One fan held a sign that read “#teamMatt” with Fisher’s head on a snake. Another said, “Snitches Get Stitches.”
“I don’t care about talking about him,” Barnes said. “Let’s talk about the game.’’
Barnes did plenty of talking in the lead-up to the game. He said he wouldn’t do anything to hurt his team, but he sounded as if he still wants to hurt Fisher.
“I just don’t like him. And he knows I don’t like him,” Barnes said. “So don’t say nothing to me, and I don’t plan on saying nothing to him. Don’t try to shake my hand. None of that. There’s nothing there. There never will be.”
The NBA suspended Barnes two games for “engaging in a physical altercation and threatening” Fisher. Barnes said the NBA hadn’t contacted him, but he knew he had to be “on alert.”
“I know that I’m important to the team,” he said, “and anything I do can affect — me getting suspended is not good for the team.”
Barnes said he has received support from players, coaches and general managers around the league and that he doesn’t regret driving to his former home to confront Fisher.
“Every man who looks at the situation knows what’s right and wrong,” Barnes said. “Violence is never the answer, but sometimes it is. And unfortunately, it happened. I don’t regret it. Like, man to man knows who’s wrong and who’s right. The NBA decided to step in and did what they did. But it is what it is. When it comes to family, it’s family. Unfortunately, you have to watch who you call friends these days. That’s it.”
Fisher, who was not disciplined by the league, hasn’t responded to any of the things Barnes has said or written about him. Barnes was asked why he thinks Fisher hasn’t defended himself to the media. “Because he knows he’s wrong,” he said. “You know what I mean? And he already took one L [loss in the fight]. So what’s the point?”
Fisher has deflected questions about Barnes, but he became testy before the game when he was asked two more. After the first, he stared at the reporter for about 10 seconds. After the second, he clearly was annoyed.
“Look, man, we’re here to play basketball,” he said. “This is a basketball game. This is not about me or what happened. This is about the game. So if you guys have some basketball questions, that’s what I’m here for. I’ve answered all these questions plenty of times. There’s nothing to talk about. Decisions have been made. I say we move on.”