Palace dispute occurred before Game 3

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Police are investigating a confrontation between Karl Malone and a fan who says the Lakers' forward poked him in the face before Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

In a dispute shown repeatedly on national television, the man
was at the edge of the court during Los Angeles' layup drill before
Thursday night's game, won by the Detroit Pistons 88-68.

Malone, a 19-year NBA veteran and the league's second-leading
career scorer, said Friday that the fan had obviously been drinking
and spit in his face while heckling him.

"He was really out of line," Malone said. "Just because you
buy a ticket doesn't mean you should be able to get on the court
and degrade somebody."

Malone shouted back and jabbed his right index finger at the
man, whose head jerked backward. As to whether he made contact,
Malone said, "Maybe I did, but he was in my playing field.

"He was on the court. Where was the security in the arena?" he

The unidentified man complained to the Auburn Hills police.

"At this time, the investigation is going on and we are not
releasing any information about the case," police Lt. James
Manning said.

Manning said police would release more information Monday.

"I'm not going to let a guy spit on me," Malone said. "I'm
not going to take that. I've never had that happen before."

Malone also said fans have harassed the Lakers at their hotel in nearby Birmingham, Mich.

"They did it all night long until the cops came," Malone said.