Jimmy Butler among 4 ejected after scuffle in 4th quarter of Heat-Pelicans game

A few fans were escorted out of the arena as well.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Naji Marshall (8), left, and Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, right, get into a scuffle
AP Photo/Matthew Hinton

New Orleans Pelicans forward Naji Marshall (8), left, and Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler, right, get into a scuffle during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.

Jimmy Butler had 23 points and nine rebounds before being ejected after a fourth-quarter melee and the Miami Heat held off the New Orleans Pelicans 106-95 on Friday night before a hostile and emotionally charged crowd.

Bam Adebayo scored 24 points for Miami, which returned from its All-Star break by beating snapping the Pelicans' four-game winning streak in what also marked the Heat's seventh straight victory over the Pelicans.

Miami reserve Thomas Bryant, along with Pelicans players Jose Alvarado and Naji Marshall, also were ejected after the on-court melee with 11:19 to go and Miami leading 84-81.

The scuffle began after Pelicans star forward Zion Williamson stole the ball from Butler, and Kevin Love grabbed Williamson to prevent an uncontested layup.

As Love was whistled for a foul, Williamson fell to the court and Marshall rushed in to object to the way Williamson was fouled.

Butler engaged Marshall and they briefly grabbed each other by the neck as teammates and coaches animatedly swarmed around them.

After it appeared that officials had managed to separate the teams, Bryant and Alvarado began bickering near the scorers' table and exchanged blows as a new scrum formed around them.

Fans gave Marshall and Alvarado, both popular reserves known for feisty play, a standing ovation as they left the court.

Emotions flared in the stands as well.

A fan wearing a Pelicans jersey began throwing things at Miami players as Alvarado and Bryant scuffled and was ejected by security. Soon after, a fan wearing a Heat jersey was escorted out.

Officials reviewed video of the altercations for several minutes before deciding on the four ejections. Love was assessed a common foul.

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

“It was just, I think, a misunderstanding of the play,” Spoelstra continued. "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.”

When play resumed, the Pelicans briefly surged in front when rookie Jordan Hawkins' 3 made it 91-89, but Heat reserve Haywood Highsmith quickly responded with a 3 that ignited a decisive 11-0 Miami run.

“It's a sign of good teams that even with Jimmy out, other guys could step up and they wanted it,” Spoelstra said. “You could feel it that guys wanted to do it for Jimmy and just the context of everything was just figure out a way to finish this game.”

Duncan Robinson scored 17 points and Tyler Herro scored 15 for the Heat. Herro, however, appeared to hurt his left knee with 1:40 left and hobbled straight to the locker room after he was helped to his feet.

Williamson had 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for New Orleans, which played a second straight night without high-scoring wing Brandon Ingram (illness), and lost for just the second time in 10 games.

Herb Jones scored 19 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, who were done in by 37.5% shooting (39 of 104) — 7 of 32 (21.9%) from 3-point range.

Miami, by contrast, shot 44.8% (13 of 29) from deep and 46.3% (38 of 82) overall. New Orleans outrebounded Miami 54-46 and outscored the Heat 58-46 in the paint, but that was not enough to overcome the shooting disparity in the game.

Butler scored 17 points in the first half and gave Miami a lead as large as 19 when he tipped in Jaime Jaquez Jr.'s jump hook to make it 43-24. When Herro hit his second 3 of the game, the Heat led 55-37 with less that six minutes to go in the half.

That's when the Pelicans suddenly locked down defensively and began a dramatic 21-3 run to close the second quarter. It started with Williamson's free throws, followed by his putback.

Trey Murphy III, having missed his first seven shots, hit a 3 to pull the Pelicans back to 57-47. Alvarado added another from deep, followed by a reverse scoop that he spun in off the glass. Valanciunas finished the remarkable, crowd-energizing surge with a layup set up by Williamson to tie it at 58 at halftime.

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