Jimmy Butler ejected after Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans brawl; three others tossed

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Jimmy Butler in Miami
Jimmy Butler in Miami in October 2023. PHOTO: SAM NAVARRO/GETTY

Miami Heat star 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:

“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

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