DENVER — The Nuggets’ and Trail Blazers’ outside shooting was brutal enough.
Then, Portland’s 97-90 Game 2 win got even uglier.
Late in the game, Denver forward Torrey Craig — who returned from a bloody nose injury wearing a mask — got knocked by down Enes Kanter.
It appeared that Nikola Jokic pushed Kanter, and as soon as an off-balance Kanter turned to run up court, Craig was right in front of him.
Kanter said Jokic's push was what started the scuffle.
"It was a free throw box out, and then this dude literally just pushed me into his teammate, and then I knocked somebody down," Kanter said after the game. "Then they started getting in my face. I'm like, 'I didn't do anything, your teammate just pushed me into you.'"
Gary Harris and Jamal Murray stuck up for their teammate and jawed with Kanter. Murray and Kanter were assessed double technical fouls.
The big question: Will anyone get suspended for Game 3 Friday for leaving the bench area?
Apparently not. The Oregonian's Joe Freeman reported Thursday morning that the "NBA will not hand out further disciplinary action relating to the late-game skirmish between the Blazers and Nuggets in Game 2, according to a league source."
A timeout was called before the altercation, which perhaps gave the players additional leeway to be on the court.
Trail Blazers forward Evan Turner ran from his team’s bench area to get into the thick of the scrum. Nuggets reserves Jarred Vanderbilt and Trey Lyles were also right in the mix. Vanderbilt got physically involved. He pushed Kanter then, as Rodney Hood separated Kanter, pushed Hood.
NBC Sports Northwest and The Denver Post both reported that Murray was on the bench when the collision happened and joined the scuffle during the timeout. NBCSNW also reported that in addition to Murray, Vanderbilt and Lyles, Nuggets reserves Brandon Goodwin, Juan Hernangomez, Isaiah Thomas and Thomas Welsh also came off the bench during the melee.
Here's the rule from the 2018-19 NBA Rulebook about players leaving their bench during an altercation.
"During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be subject to suspension, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $50,000.
- The suspensions will commence prior to the start of their next game.
- A team must have a minimum of eight players dressed and ready to play in every preseason and regular season game and nine in any playoff game.
- If five or more players leave the bench, the players will serve their suspensions alphabetically, according to the first letters of their last name.
- If seven bench players are suspended (assuming no participants are included), four of them would be suspended for the first game following the altercation. The remaining three would be suspended for the second game following the altercation."
There is no clarification in the rulebook for players leaving the bench during a timeout while an altercation is taking place.
Murray is the Nuggets' starting shooting guard and second-leading scorer. Turner is in the Blazers' playoff rotation. None of the others reportedly involved are rotation players for either team.
If Murray would have been suspended for Game 3, it would have been a big loss for the Nuggets. Murray struggled in Game 2, finishing with just 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting. But he averaged 18.2 points per game this season, and in Game 1, he scored 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He's arguably Denver's second-best player.
Portland would have missed Turner if he'd been suspended, because starting small forward Maurice Harkless left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and is day-to-day. Harkless was solidly defending Jamal Murray, who got into a better rhythm afterward.
Even with no suspensions coming down, the series has taken on a less friendly tone than was established prior to Game 1. Nuggets backup guard Monte Morris told The Denver Post that the skirmish at the end of Game 2 is just a preview of what Game 3 will be like.
"That showed you how Game 3 is gonna be. It’s gonna be real chippy," Morris said. "We just gotta be ready to take the challenge, throw the first punch and do what we do to get the win."
Best-of-7 series tied 1-1; all times Pacific; x=if necessary
Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers
- Game 1 (at DEN): Nuggets 121, Trail Blazers 113 (box score)
- Game 2 (at DEN): Trail Blazers 97, Nuggets 90 (box score)
- Game 3 (at POR): Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
- Game 4 (at POR): Sunday, May 5, 4 p.m., TNT
- x-Game 5 (at DEN): Tuesday, May 7, time TBD, TNT
- x-Game 6 (at POR): Thursday, May 9, time TBD, ESPN
- x-Game 7 (at DEN): Sunday, May 12, time TBD, TV TBD
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