Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic was ejected from the Denver Nuggets‘ win over the Miami Heat on Monday night after delivering a cheap shot to Markieff Morris in the closing minutes of the game. The medical staff initially brought a stretcher onto the floor for Morris — who was also ejected from the contest — but he was able to walk off on his own. Jokic was officially given an unsportsmanlike conduct foul, while Morris was assessed a flagrant foul 2.
With under two minutes to play, Jokic secured a rebound and was bringing the ball up the floor when Morris barreled into him from the side. The refs blew the whistle for a foul, and Morris walked away. A furious Jokic came after him and delivered a shoulder into Morris’ back, which sent him sprawling.
“It’s a stupid play, I feel bad,” Jokic said. “I’m not supposed to react that way. I got hit. I saw him, but I thought it was just gonna be like a take foul. But he bumped me and I was like, I think it was a dirty play and I just needed to protect myself.”
Players, coaches and security staff immediately rushed to the middle of the court and Jokic was pulled away by Nuggets coach Michael Malone. As the scrum continued, Jimmy Butler seemed particularly upset, yelling and gesturing for someone to come at him. Nothing came of that, however, save for Butler receiving a technical foul, and things soon calmed down while the medical personnel attended to Morris.
The veteran forward stayed down on the floor for some time, and they even brought out a stretcher as a precaution. Thankfully, he did not need it and was able to get up and walk off on his own. The Heat announced that he has a neck injury and will undergo further evaluation. “He’s moving around in the locker room right now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ll do the necessary tests and do what we need to do (to) make sure he’s OK.
“That was a very dangerous, dirty play,” Spoelstra continued. “I thought Keef took a foul and it was one of those fast-break take fouls. And he did it with his shoulder. You might deem that maybe as a little bit more than just the slapping stuff. Right after I watched it on film, it was a take foul. That’s how I saw it. And the play after that, that’s just absolutely uncalled for.”
Even the brothers of the involved players got involved as the Jokic Brothers responded to Markieff’s brother, Marcus Morris, who tweeted “Waited til bro turned his back smh. NOTED:”
As for Morris, the Heat veteran tweeted Tuesday morning about what went down the night before:
Jokic’s response was a total overreaction, and there’s no place in the game for hitting guys with cheap shots in the back. You simply cannot be doing that. At the same time, there are no innocent parties here. Morris knew exactly what he was doing running across the court to deliver a hard, unnecessary foul in the final minute of a blowout.
While some situations are settled on the court with an ejection, this one is going to demand further action from the league. Jokic is almost certainly going to get suspended, but how many games remains to be seen. That’s bad news for the Nuggets, who are already without Jamal Murray (knee) and Michael Porter Jr. (back) due to injuries.