The Nuggets’ 119-108 Game 6 loss to the Trail Blazers didn’t end without a few fourth-quarter fireworks.
With 6:16 remaining in regulation, Will Barton and Portland guard Seth Curry shoved each other after Zach Collins, who was defending a Nikola Jokic drive a few feet away, flew into Barton’s knee. As officials jumped in to separate the two, Barton raised his right hand and appeared to poke Curry in the right eye. Torrey Craig and Zach Collins then engaged in the scuffle and pushed one another before they were also separated. All four players were assessed technical fouls on the play.
“He waited for a few people to get in between us, and when a few people were in between us, he put his finger in my eye,” Curry said of Barton after the game. “You know what I’m saying. I can’t allow people to put their fingers in my eye.
“That’s real sassy. They got a few sassy dudes over there. Front-runners. And we can’t allow that.”
Barton responded to those comments following the Nuggets’ practice on Saturday.
“I pay no mind to it. I know who I am. People who know me know what I represent,” Barton told BSN Denver. “That’s pretty funny coming from a guy like him. There’s nothing ‘front runner’ or ‘sassy’ about me. Especially coming from him. I don’t even take him seriously coming from where I come from, so it doesn’t matter.”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone doesn’t think that Game 6 altercation between the two teams will carry over into Game 7 and noted that the incident was rather minor compared to the fights that his father, Brendan Malone, saw when he was an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons from 1988-95.
“To me that’s weak,” Malone said Saturday. “If that’s chippiness, I mean, I grew up in a much different time in the NBA. If that’s chippiness and you want to call us ‘sassy,’ go ahead, but to me, it’s a joke. It’s Will Barton protecting himself from a guy falling into his knees. Seth Curry taking offense to it, they get into a minor skirmish, move on.
“Game 7 will be hard fought, it will be emotional because of what’s at stake, but I don’t think it will be a carryover from what happened last game. It’s playoff basketball. It should be a hard-fought game, it should be physical and it should be teams protecting each other. Again, that’s a different era when you think about my father when he was with the Bad Boys and all that. That was nothing in my opinion.”
Tensions continued to mount during the closing minutes of Game 6 following a C.J. McCollum 3 with 1:19 remaining in the fourth quarter when Evan Turner stuck up his middle finger towards the Nuggets’ bench, which Jason Quick of The Athletic reported was in response to rookie Michael Porter Jr. giving the same gesture to Portland late in Denver’s Game 5 win.
Security also had to be called down to behind the Nuggets’ bench in Game 6 after Portland fans seated close by were yelling obscenities at Denver’s coaching staff and players, including Jokic and Isaiah Thomas, league sources say.
Paul Millsap shrugged off both incidents when asked about the tensions between the two teams Saturday and said he wasn’t aware of Turner or Porter’s middle finger salutes.
“It’s all fun, man. It’s basketball,” Millsap said. “Two teams trying to get to the next round. There’s going to be a few middle fingers thrown up. There’s going to be a few f-bombs. There’s going to be pushing and shoving. It’s just going to happen, man, it’s just the nature of the game.”
“I’ve been in the league for 13 years,” Millsap said when asked about Curry’s comments. “I’ve been called way worse than ‘sassy’ … I’m sure he wasn’t talking about me.”
Game 7 is Sunday at 1:30 p.m. MT.
“It’s going to be a physical game just because it’s Game 7,” said Barton, who yelled, ‘I’m sassy!’ when he shot a 3-pointer as Saturday’s practice wrapped up. “Both teams want to win.”