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Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic suspended 1 game; Miami Heat’s Markieff Morris, Jimmy Butler fined

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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 also fined $50,000 for his flagrant two fouls that led to Jokic’s retaliation.

Miami’s Jimmy Butler also 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 Miami 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.

“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.

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Sacramento Kings outduel Los Angeles Lakers, pull away in 3-OT thriller

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LOS ANGELES — De’Aaron Fox scored 34 points, Buddy Hield had 13 of his 25 after regulation and the Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers 141-137 in triple overtime Friday night.

In a game that saw 19 ties and 23 lead changes, the Lakers led 126-124 a minute into the third overtime when the Kings went on an 11-2 run to go up by seven with 1:54 remaining. Marvin Bagley III had five points during the spurt, including a three-point play to give Sacramento the lead.

Carmelo Anthony hit a 3-pointer with 9.4 seconds remaining to get the Lakers within a basket, but Hield sank a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession to put it away.

Tyrese Haliburton had 19 points for the Kings, who had seven players in double figures. They are 2-1 under interim coach Alvin Gentry.

The Lakers, who are 10-11 after dropping five of their past seven, had four players with at least 20 points with the first time this season. LeBron James led the way with 30 points, Russell Westbrook added 29, Anthony Davis 23 and Malik Monk 20.

The Lakers scored the first six points of the first overtime and were up 110-103 before the Kings scored seven straight, including Hield’s 3-pointer to tie it with 28 seconds remaining. Davis had a driving layup with 9.0 seconds remaining but Sacramento forced a second OT on Hield’s 18-foot jumper.

The largest lead anyone had in the second overtime was three points. James made a driving layup with 24 seconds remaining to tie it at 124. Sacramento had the final possession, but couldn’t get a shot off.

HOW WE GOT TO OVERTIME

Monk scored 11 points during a 24-8 second-half run that saw the Lakers turn a three-point deficit with 4 minutes to go in the third quarter into an 86-73 advantage with 10:02 remaining.

The Kings would counter through with a 22-5 rally, including eight points from Alex Len, to seize a 98-93 advantage with 2:26 to go. Los Angeles, though, scored seven of the last nine points of regulation to send it to overtime.

After a layup by James gave the Lakers a 100-98 advantage, Fox tied it with a layup with 21 seconds to go. The Lakers had the final shot, but James missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

TIP-INS

Kings: It was Fox’s second game this season with at least 30 points. He scored 37 on Nov. 10 at San Antonio. … Terence Davis had 13 points before fouling out in overtime. … Harrison Barnes (right foot sprain) and Richaun Holmes (right eye contusion) were out of the lineup.

Lakers: Anthony (16 points) was 6 of 13 from the field after going 7 of 27 the past two games. … This was Monk’s third game with at least 20 points since joining Los Angeles during the offseason. … Davis reached 800 career steals when he stripped the ball from Fox during the first overtime.

UP NEXT

Kings: Travel to Memphis Sunday.

Lakers: Host Detroit Sunday.

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‘We’re just trying to build, build’

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NEW YORK — The Phoenix Suns haven’t lost a game in a month. And, after beating the New York Knicks here at Madison Square Garden Friday night, they are two wins away from equaling the franchise’s all-time consecutive win streak of 17 games.

To do so, however, the Suns will only have to beat the teams sitting atop both conferences — first facing the East-leading Nets Saturday night in Brooklyn before heading home to play the West-leading Golden State Warriors. It’ll be the first of three games in less than a month against the Warriors, culminating with a Christmas Day showdown between the league’s top two teams thus far.

But while the rest of the NBA may have the consecutive games between two of the league’s three-best teams circled at the moment, one team does not: the Suns themselves.

“This ain’t a playoff game tomorrow,” Chris Paul said with a smile after Phoenix’s 118-97 victory over the Knicks. “It’s good for us to go out there and compete, and we’re probably gonna see different coverages and all that, but we’re just trying to build, build.

“It’s not about winning a game in November.”

The Suns are focused on building toward winning games in May and June. But the whole winning games in November thing? That’s going just fine as Phoenix ripped off its 15th straight victory Friday night in a comprehensive win over the Knicks.

The game was competitive through the first quarter. But, as the game progressed, the Knicks simply melted away, unable to get anything going offensively while simultaneously giving up whatever the Suns wanted at the other end of the court. Phoenix finished the game shooting 55 percent from the field and 13-for-28 from 3-point range.

But it was Devin Booker, who finished with 32 points in 35 minutes, that stole the show for the Suns, pouring in 21 points in the first half and getting wherever he wanted against whomever Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau threw at him.

“A lot of guys say they want to play on this stage, but he really does,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But I don’t think there’s many stages Book doesn’t want to play on.”

Booker said the aggression on his part stemmed from knowing that the Suns needed to get off to a good start after a pair of close wins over San Antonio and Cleveland earlier this week. He acknowledged Phoenix’s win streak has made them a team everyone is excited to play, and that the Suns have to match that intensity on a nightly basis.

“We just wanted to get it going,” said Booker, who shot 14-for-27 from the field and 4-for-9 from 3-point range. “It’s no secret we have a streak going, and we’re going to get every team’s best shot. The whole NBA knows about that, so we just tried to set the tone early. Come out, play team basketball … we did our job tonight.”

That’s been the case for quite some time for these Suns, who are now a pair of wins away from equaling that franchise-best 17-game win streak, which came back in the 2006-07 season.

The past calendar year has seen Phoenix return to the heights they haven’t reached since that era, when Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Mike D’Antoni turned the Suns into perennial contenders in the Western Conference.

These Suns, though, managed to do what that group never quite could last season in reaching the NBA Finals, where they lost in six hard-fought games to the Milwaukee Bucks. And after it looked like Phoenix might fall into some sort of hangover from last season with losses in three of its first four games, all the Suns have managed to do is win every game since, to the point where it enters Saturday’s game in Brooklyn having gone a full calendar month between losses.

It’s a turnaround that began with Phoenix’s acquisition of Paul via trade a year ago this month. And, as he surveyed his team’s latest win, he said it is Phoenix’s defense — which is the NBA’s third-best unit this season, and is second to Golden State since the start of the winning streak — that is the foundation for everything the Suns are hoping to accomplish.

“We talk about it all the time. [The] one thing that travels is defense,” Paul said. “I think that’s where we try to be consistent.”

The Suns will now hope to carry that consistency over to Saturday’s game in Brooklyn. What Phoenix says it won’t do, however, is think about anything beyond that.

“We do one at a time,” Booker said. “We know we have a tough opponent tomorrow that’s been waiting on us, well-rested. So we just have to come in with the same mentality, play the type of basketball that we do, defend at a high level and put ourselves in good shape to get it done.”

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Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant injures left knee in 1st, out for rest of game

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Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant suffered a left knee injury that caused him to exit Friday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter.

Morant was hurt while dribbling the ball toward the paint, although there was no contact that appeared to cause the injury. He began to limp, passed the ball and then hobbled off the floor in the middle of the play.

After briefly being attended to in front of the Grizzlies’ bench, Morant was helped to the locker room, putting no pressure on his left leg. Minutes later, the Grizzlies announced that he was ruled out for the remainder of the game.

Morant, 22, has established himself as one of the NBA’s premier young stars. He seemed to be on the path to his first All-Star appearance this season, averaging a career-best 25.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game entering Friday night.

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