NBA suspends Jimmy Butler, others after Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans scuffle Friday

The NBA suspended five players, including Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, after a scuffle broke out during Friday night's game between the Heat and New Orleans Pelicans, the league announced Sunday.

Butler, his Heat teammate Nikola Jović and the Pelicans' Naji Marshall were all given a one-game suspension for the incident at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. Butler and Marshall were penalized for instigating the fight — Butler pushed Marshall, who retaliated by putting his hand on Butler's neck — while Jović was flagged for leaving the bench during the incident.

Miami's Thomas Bryant and New Orleans' Jose Alvarado were each handed a three-game suspension for their involvement in the altercation.

Butler, Marshall, Bryant and Alvarado were all ejected from the game after the incident.

The Miami Heat and New Orleans Pelicans scuffle during their game Friday night.
The Miami Heat and New Orleans Pelicans scuffle during their game Friday night.

Four players ejected Friday after Heat-Pelicans scuffle

Jimmy Butler was one of four players ejected Friday evening after a scuffle broke out between the Heat and the New Orleans Pelicans in the fourth quarter.

The incident started when Heat forward Kevin Love committed a hard foul on the Pelicans' Zion Williamson under the basket with 11:19 remaining as the Heat led the Pelicans, 84-80. After the foul, the Pelicans' Naji Marshall ran to his teammate's defense and pushed Love from over Williamson.

Then chaos ensued. Butler pushed Marshall, his hand running up by Marshall's neck. Marshall retaliated by putting his hand around Butler's neck to choke him. The teams were eventually separated before another scuffle broke out between the Pelicans' Jose Alvarado and the Heat's Thomas Bryant, who both appeared to throw punches at each other.

In the end, Butler, Bryant, Marshall and Alvarado were all ejected from the game. Butler, who finished the night with 23 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals, flexed his muscles to the crowd before leaving the floor.

The Heat beat the Pelicans 106-95.

Here's how the fight broke out

Players reaction to ejections post-game

“I don’t think I should have gotten thrown out of the game,” Butler said afterwards.

Butler believes that Williamson flopped on the play that touched off the scuffle, and said the former No. 1 overall pick “knew he shouldn’t have did that.”

“Then (Marshall) came and put his hands on K-Love and that’s how it all escalated,” Butler said.

Williamson said he "wasn’t tripping about K-Love because he actually protected me on my fall."

“All of a sudden I see Butler kind of lunging toward Naji, so I'm trying to get there like, 'Yo, relax, like what’s going on?'" Williamson said.

"You never want to see that," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Once it was all done, the response was appropriate – discipline, physicality, force, but not going over the top."

Spoelstra believes the situation spiraled out of control thanks in part to "a misunderstanding of the play" involving Love and Williamson.

"I think Zion slipped on the play when K-Love grabbed him and it looked a lot worse than what it was. And then everybody kind of overreacted.

"I think they interpreted that K-Love threw (Williamson) down. On K-Love’s best day, I don’t think he could throw him down."

Despite the tense moment, both teams appeared to appreciate the response of the players.

“It’s people competing – people riding for their teammates,” Williamson said.

Spoelstra said the intensity on the court that led to the melee "is what competitors want. It’s what the fans want. It’s what everybody wants and sometimes it boils over unfortunately.”

“We’ll just see what happens from the league,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody’s intentions were right at first but you get a bunch of competitive people out there and it kind of boiled over.”

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA suspends Jimmy Butler, others after Heat, Pelicans scuffle Friday