After Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets' league MVP, was ejected Monday night for aggressively blindsiding power forward Markieff Morris behind the bench in retaliation for a hard foul, the NBA could suspend him.
Jokic had rebounded and brought the ball downcourt after he passed it to him near midcourt. Morris tried to stop play by giving a hard foul with his left arm to Jokic's exposed right as the center was delivering an overhead ball. Jokic, furious at Morris' departure, took a few steps to deliver a hard right forearm shove to Morris' back. This sent the Heat flying to the floor.
Jokic was dismissed after Morris was assessed with a flagrant foul 2. The NBA will review Jokic's reaction from behind and could issue a suspension or fine.
Erik Spoelstra, Heat coach, said that it was a dangerous and filthy play. "Keef took an offensive foul. It was one of those quickbreak-take fouls. He did it with his shoulder. Although you might think it was more than just slapping someone, the film clearly shows that it was a take foul. This is how I saw it. The play that followed is just completely uncalled for.
Jokic stated that he felt the need for protection, but that he was ashamed of the way he shoved Morris in his back.
Jokic said to reporters that it was a stupid play after the game. "I feel terrible. "I feel bad. It was a take foul. It was going to be a take-foul. It was a take foul. It was probably a dirty play. I needed to protect my self. I felt bad. "I am not supposed to feel this way. But I have to protect myself."
Jokic later said: "I don’t know who showed it to me, and his head snapped back [after he shove], so I feel really sorry. ... It's a terrible move.
Jamal Murray is out of action and the Nuggets were without Michael Porter Jr. Monday due to a lower back injury. The Nuggets will be playing Indiana on Wednesday and could be without their top three players.
When asked about Jokic's suspension, Denver coach Michael Malone stated, "I will be concerned myself when they tell me he's suspended." Malone was referring to Jokic's triple-double Monday, which included 25 points, 15 boards, and 10 assists. "I won't waste my time looking into my crystal balls and reading my tea leaves. I don't have that. He is available until they inform me otherwise. He'd be available Wednesday night, and I don't see why.
Spoelstra stated that Morris was fine after the hard foul, and was moving about in the locker room.
Spoelstra stated that the whole thing could have turned out a lot worse if Markieff had been facing Jokic. He blindsided him and made a dangerous play because he was able to turn his back on Markieff.
Both officials and coaches tried to maintain peace after the altercation. Jokic was sitting on the bench as the court was still being resolved. Emotions were high. Jimmy Butler, Miami's star player, shouted at the Nuggets. He was eventually stopped. He was given a technical foul.
Spoelstra stated that "the video and the picture are worth a thousand words" when asked about the reaction of Heat players to the incident.