Denver Nuggets star and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic has been suspended for one game without pay for forcefully pushing Miami Heat forward Markieff Morris in the back on Monday night.
The Nuggets will not have their franchise center against Indiana on Wednesday.
Morris was fined $50,000 for his flagrant two fouls that led to Jokic's retaliation, while Miami's Jimmy Butler was fined $30,000 for attempting to escalate the altercation and failing to comply with an NBA security interview.
Jokic was ejected with 2:39 left in a 113-96 win over the Heat on Monday after he took exception to a foul by Morris. Jokic rebounded the ball and brought it down court when he passed the ball near midcourt. The Heat forward, trying to stop play, gave a hard foul with his left elbow to Jokic's exposed right side as the center was delivering an overhead pass. As Morris walked away, a livid Jokic took a couple of steps and delivered a hard right forearm shove with his weight behind him to Morris' back, sending the Heat forward flying hard toward the floor.
Emotions from the skirmish spilled onto social media as the brothers of both NBA players weighed in. Markieff's twin brother, the LA Clippers' Marcus Morris, chimed in on Twitter intimating that Jokic shoving his brother from behind was shady and that he will remember it.
"Waited till bro turned his back smh. NOTED," Marcus Morris tweeted Monday night with an emoji of a hand with a pen writing something down.
That prompted Jokic's brothers, Strahinja and Nemanja, to open a Twitter account named "@JokicBrothers" to respond to Marcus, Jokic's brothers confirmed to The Denver Post.
The newly created account tweeted: "You should leave this the way it is instead of publicly threatening our brother! Your brother made a dirty play first. If you want to make a step further be sure we will be waiting for you !! Jokic Brothers"
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made it clear that he thought Jokic's retaliation was "dirty."
"That was a very dangerous and dirty play," Spoelstra told reporters after the game. "Keef took a foul and it was one of those fast break take fouls and he did with his shoulder. You might deem that maybe as a little bit more than just slapping somebody but after watching it on film it was a take foul. That's how I saw it. And the play after that's just absolutely uncalled for."
Jokic left with a triple-double of 25 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. The reigning MVP said he felt the need to protect himself but that he felt bad after seeing how hard he shoved Morris in the back.
"It's a stupid play," Jokic told reporters after the game. "I feel bad. I am not supposed to react that way ... I thought it was going to be a take foul ... I think it was a dirty play. And I just needed to protect myself. I felt bad, I am not supposed to react that way but I need to protect myself."
Jokic later added: "I don't know who showed me the clip and actually his head snapped back [after the shove] so I feel really bad ... it's a bad move."
The Nuggets will now be without their top three players against Indiana. They are already without the injured Jamal Murray, who is recovering from a torn ACL, and Michael Porter Jr. remains out due to a lower back injury.
Spoelstra said Morris was OK after the hard foul and was moving around in the locker room, but Morris has been ruled out for Wednesday's game against the Lakers
"This whole thing could have been a whole lot uglier if Markieff was actually facing Jokic," Spoelstra said. "The fact that he had his back turned and he made a play like that, blindsiding him, just a very dangerous play."
The altercation resulted in both coaching staffs and officials trying to keep the peace. As Jokic sat on the bench while things were still being sorted out on the court, emotions were running high as Butler shouted toward the Nuggets and had to be held back.
"The video and picture is worth a thousand words," Spoelstra added when asked about the mood of the Heat players after the incident.