The NBA has suspended Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray for Game 5 of Atlanta's series against the Boston Celtics for making inappropriate contact with and verbally abusing a referee, the league announced Monday. The incident occurred in the closing seconds of the game, as Murray walked off the court in defeat. A video from the arena shows Murray making contact with referee Gediminas Petraitis.
He also turned back, pointed and yelled at someone, though it is not clear who. He was escorted off the court by Hawks security.
The NBA rulebook states that "any player or coach guilty of intentional physical contact with an official shall automatically be suspended without pay for one game." The league's investigation seems to have found that Murray's contact was intentional.
We've seen this rule in action this season. In October, Celtics forward Grant Williams was suspended for one game after making contact with an official in a loss to the Chicago Bulls. Now, that rule will be used on Boston's postseason opponent.
The Celtics have a 3-1 lead in their first-round series against the Hawks. If they win Game 5 on Tuesday, they will advance to the second round and face the Philadelphia 76ers, who have already completed a sweep of the Brooklyn Nets. The Hawks already had an uphill climb ahead of them if they wanted to upset the Celtics. Atlanta would need to win two games in a row in order to topple Boston, and two of those games would come on the road. Now, they have to start their comeback effort without one of their All-Star guards.
Such an outcome would be a fitting end to an extremely disappointing season for the Hawks. Atlanta expected to compete for the Eastern Conference crown with Murray and Trae Young in its backcourt. Instead, they are now poised to get knocked out in the first round for the second consecutive season, and this time, one of their best players will be watching the possible closeout game from the sidelines.