Miami power player Markieff Morris started things off with a stinging, flagrant elbow. Then followed a retaliation, nasty blindside push from Nuggets star Nikola Jokic.
Jokic will most likely face a suspension and a fine next.
Last season’s NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic, labelled his late-game actions in Denver’s 113-96 victory on Monday night “dumb.” Erik Spoelstra, the coach of the Miami Heat, was furious, calling it a “very dangerous and filthy move.”
Here’s how everything went down at Ball Arena:
Jokic recovered the ball and carried it down the court, then passed off around midcourt, with 2 minutes, 39 seconds left in a hard contest. Morris, seeking to halt play, slapped Jokic with a strong elbow to the exposed right side of Jokic when he was delivering an overhead pass.
Jokic, apparently enraged by the flagrant foul, charged after Morris and decked him with a strong right forearm to the back. The Miami forward was knocked out hard.
A stretcher was brought out, but Morris was able to rise to his feet and head to the Heat’s locker room after several minutes on the floor. Morris had damaged his neck, but he was up and moving about in the locker room and was expected to be OK, according to the organisation.
Morris was called for a flagrant foul two, and Jokic was dismissed.
After the game, Spoelstra observed, “That was a really risky and filthy move.” “Keef took a foul, one of those fastbreak fouls, and he took it with his shoulder.” You may argue that there was more than simply slapping someone, but after seeing it on tape, it was a take foul. That’s how I interpreted it. And then there’s the play following that, which is really uncalled for.”
Jokic stated that he was concerned that he had inadvertently injured Morris, but he presented his own explanation for what occurred.
“I feel horrible,” said Jokic, who had his first triple-double of the season, scoring 25 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists. “It was a dumb play.” That’s not how I’m meant to respond.
“I assumed it was a take foul, but I believe it was a dirty play.” And all I needed to do was defend myself. I felt awful; I shouldn’t have reacted that way, but I needed to defend myself.”
For a brief period, it looked like a brawl might erupt as members from both sides started shoving and yelling at one other. Miami’s Jimmy Butler had to be detained after yelling and gesticulating at the Nuggets. He was summoned for a technical examination. The referees and coaching staffs of both teams kept the situation from escalating.
If Jokic is banned, the Nuggets will be shorthanded against Indiana on Wednesday night at Ball Arena. Denver is already missing Jamal Murray due to injury, and Michael Porter Jr. is expected to miss many games due to a lower-back issue.
Michael Malone, the Nuggets’ coach, avoided questions about whether or not he believes his centre would be punished.
“I’ll be concerned if they tell us he’s suspended,” Malone said. “I’m not going to squander my time poring over my crystal ball and tea leaves.” That’s something I don’t have. He’ll be accessible until they tell me he won’t be. And I don’t see why he shouldn’t be available on Wednesday night.”
The Heat’s players were not accessible to the media, but Spoelstra spoke for them.
“If Markieff was really facing Jokic, this entire situation might have been a lot worse,” Spoelstra said. “The fact that (Morris) had his back turned and (Jokic) made that move, blindsiding him, it was simply a really hazardous play.”
When asked about his players’ moods in the Heat locker room, the coach remarked, “The video and image (are) worth a thousand words.”