Jusuf Nurkic insisted he did not intentionally trip Russell Westbrook after the pair clashed during a fractious encounter between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.
Portland center Nurkic scored 13 points to go alongside 17 rebounds but was not available for his team during overtime after picking up two technical fouls in regulation.
His first was for a trip on Westbrook, who responded by shoulder charging his opponent so hard he fell to the floor as they crossed the halfway line.
However, Nurkic insisted the initial contact was accidental, telling reporters after the game: “I may have tripped him, but I didn’t do it on purpose.”
Gritty road W in OT pic.twitter.com/LNkFXCvuvf
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 8, 2019
The 24-year-old was also involved in an incident with Oklahoma’s Paul George, who caught his opponent with an elbow when attempting a shot in a frantic final minute of the fourth quarter.
Nurkic was then fouled by George as they attempted to grab the rebound following a miss by Damian Lillard at the other end of the court. The duo squared up to each other, going head to head, and both received technicals.
“If you watch the replay after the [foul] call, after the whistle, he [George] hit me in the face and they didn’t see that I guess. It’s on me. I need to control my emotions,” Nurkic said. “I can do whatever I want, they’re going to penalize me. When some other players do it, they’re not going to do it. I watched the replay again. Everybody saw the elbow, they didn’t see it. I guess it’s on me.
“Somebody hit me and I’m going to be in concussion protocol and they’re going to say it’s my fault, so it is what it is.”
Westbrook received a flagrant foul for making contact with Nurkic; he went on to score 37 points as the Thunder triumphed 129-121 in Portland.
As well as opposing players, the point guard also engaged at times with fans inside the Moda Center. At one point, he responded to comments from close to the visiting bench by gesturing for silence, holding a finger to his lips.
“It’s great, it’s fun. That’s part of the game to interact with the fans, good or bad,” the eight-time All-Star told TNT during an on-court interview. “Regardless of what happens, I’m going to go out and compete at a high level every night, enjoy the game. Hopefully they enjoy the game, though obviously they didn’t tonight.”