When Jamal Murray launched a last-second three-pointer instead of dribbling out the clock on Tuesday night, perhaps he didn’t even realize he would offend anyone.
Murray was caught up in the moment after playing the game of his life against the top-ranked defense in the NBA, singlehandedly willing his Denver Nuggets to victory over the Celtics with a career-high 48 points.
The only thing that could make the moment sweeter in Murray’s eyes was crossing the 50-point threshold for the first time.
So, with Denver leading by eight in the final seconds, Murray slowly dribbled past half-court and Boston’s defense yielded. He casually let the clock tick down to the final two seconds, then quickly glanced at Jaylen Brown and bricked a long three-point attempt.
Only Murray knows if his actions were intended to show disrespect to the opposition. But here’s the thing: Boston remembers these kinds of transgressions.
After the final shot, players on both teams engaged in a brief scuffle and Kyrie Irving launched the game ball several hundred feet into the stands.
That outburst resulted in a $25,000 fine for Irving’s fiery response to what he referred to as a “bullshit move” by Murray. Irving later said the penalty did not affect his stance on the ordeal.
"From a competition and competitive standpoint, I think (the ball) absolutely deserved to go in the stands still… You just don't play basketball like that…. You just don't.
There's a tradition and a respect within the league, as well as in any basketball game. Obviously you've won the game, you have it sealed, you've had a great game, game of your life, and you do something like that… it's petty. It's immature… We'll see him again though."Predictably, Murray told reporters after the game that he had intended no ill will.
"I think my emotions took over… No disrespect to the Boston organization and fans with that shot -- I just had in my mind that I was going to go 50, and I think everybody kind of understood that was what I was trying to do. I really wasn't meaning no disrespect... I know half the team over there, so no hard feelings."But regardless of intentions, any sensible basketball player, coach, or fan who has been around the NBA for years should understand basic longstanding unwritten rules.
Irving believes that Murray knew the gravity of his actions. As a proven champion, Irving felt the unmistakable twinge of disrespect when the Celtics’ defense surrendered and Murray bid to pad his stats.
“He knew. He knew… In any game, it's just a respect for your opponent, and I felt disrespected after the game. So, your career-high ball goes in the stands."Basketball is a brotherhood and Murray acted up while exhibiting selfish immaturity. Irving simply wanted him to play with the same sense of honor and respect that all great NBA players should demonstrate.
|Denver Post/Getty Images|
Physicality and a playoff environment should favor Irving and the Celtics as they will focus on wearing down Murray by exposing his mediocre defensive skills through a relentless pick-and-roll attack.
Furthermore, he will learn firsthand just how important tradition is to the city of Boston when 18,000 screaming fans tell him exactly how they feel about his disrespectful actions towards their team.
This incident could also energize the Celtics to play harder moving forward, which would be scary for their opponents because Boston already owns the top-ranked defense.
Nevertheless, Denver’s rising star will keep improving and whatever relationships he had with Boston’s players will continue to endure. Guys on both teams will talk and laugh with one another during All-Star Weekend in February.
But because of Murray’s arrogant last-second brick, nobody in the TD Garden, especially the Celtics, will fear the player who dropped 48 points on them back in November.
Instead, he is just the newest enemy of one of the Association’s greatest franchises. If he later develops into a superstar, perhaps that wrinkle will even embolden his legacy.
So for now, Boston and the Celtics will move on and wait to get their revenge when they will remind Murray not to mess with tradition, especially one as important as sportsmanship.
48 points against an elite defense is truly remarkable. But it doesn’t give a player the right to throw sportsmanship right out the window.
Basketball should be better than that.