It was a highly anticipated NBA rematch, one that had the unusual quality of drawing out questions about increased security as well as the foreboding presence of the reigning MVP’s beefy brothers. The Nuggets were in Miami on Monday night to play the Heat, exactly three weeks after a violent shove from Nikola Jokic sent Heat forward Markieff Morris to the ground.
But for Jokic, who was returning for his first game back following a wrist injury, there was not nearly as much anticipation. And any talk about potential retaliation from the Heat against Jokic proved moot. Heat players simply went about the game, without stray elbows or cheap shots directed at the Nuggets center.
“Just another game,” he said. “It’s always nice to play in Miami, it’s always a nice atmosphere. It was a good game.”
It was a good game for the Nuggets, who ended a six-game losing streak by topping the Heat, who were playing without star wings Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, the team’s two leading scorers, who account for 45.4 points per game.
The Heat fans, upset at the push that Jokic gave to Morris—who ignited the incident with a hard hip-check foul on Jokic—spent the night raining boos on Jokic. He, however, shrugged off the frosty welcome.
“I played in Serbia, brother,” Jokic said, alluding to the country’s notoriously tough crowds. “I played in Serbia so, I wish you guys can feel that.”
Jokic Has Not Spoken to Morris
Jokic said that he has not reached out to Morris in the three weeks since the incident, which raised some eyebrows because, no matter how hard the foul that Morris delivered was in the first Denver game, Jokic obviously caused some serious injury to Morris. He has not played since that game, still out with whiplash.
Morris was fined $50,000 for the foul on Jokic, and Jokic was suspended for one game for the subsequent push to Morris.
Morris has now missed 11 games with the whiplash problem, and there has been no indication from the Heat as to when he might return. The last time coach Erik Spoelstra spoke on Morris was 10 days ago, when he said, “It was a very dangerous play and it’s really unfortunate. That’s the byproduct of those kind of dangerous actions. But he is feeling better. We’ll just continue to take it one day at a time.”
Heat Banged Up as Schedule Toughens
As for the Heat, they’re in desperate need of health, beyond Morris. They’ve lost three of their last five games, and Butler struggled in his previous three outings even before he was sidelined with a contusion on his backside suffered on Saturday against Chicago.
Spoelstra called it, “a heck of a tumble.”
Butler averaged 16.3 points on 40.3% shooting in his previous three games and he has missed his last 11 3-point attempts.
The hope is that Butler can return quickly. The same goes for Herro, who has missed the Heat’s last two games with an illness.
The Heat, who have slipped to 13-8 after a 6-1 start, need to get everyone back because they’re heading into a difficult stretch of the schedule—seven of Miami’s next eight opponents are above .500.