NBA executives claim league gave Nuggets game 3 gift to protect TV audience and ESPN

Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Three
Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Three / David Berding/GettyImages

The Nuggets announced their arrival to the Western Conference Semifinals on Friday night and not a moment too soon. The team came out and smacked the Timberwolves around, completely flipping the script from game 2, winning 117-90. They now trail the series 2-1 and will have a chance to even things up on Sunday night before heading back to Denver.

Jamal Murray bounces back for the Nuggets

A big reason for the Nuggets’ success in game 3 was the play of Jamal Murray. Murray looked as healthy as he has in a while; he scored 24 points on 11/21 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. The three-day layoff looks to have done wonders for Murray who looked like a different player out there.

But the fact that Murray was out there playing at all apparently brought out some anger from around the league. In game 2, Murray’s emotions got the best of him and he threw a heating pad at a referee from the bench during live play. Murray was fined $100,000 but was notably not suspended, a surprise to some and downright upsetting for others.

Anger over NBA decision not to suspend Murray

Steve Bulpett has been covering the NBA since 1985, currently for He caught up with league executives and players to hear their thoughts on the decision by the league to not suspend Murray for game 3 and there was some anger.

One executive told Bulpett, “We all know what’s going on here, and it’s a bad look. This was about protecting the TV audience for the next game — or games.” Said another executive, “Well, what you just said by fining Jamal Murray $100,000 is that we’re prioritizing the ratings at ESPN for that big game they have for Friday night over both the referees and the players.”

Other executives scolded the league for not protecting their officials and a current player noted that Murray is very lucky nobody got hurt because things would have been a lot worse. It’s clear there was some anger and vitriol over this decision and one even wondered if Adam Silver has been too soft on players.

But anger or not, the decision was the decision. Murray was allowed to play and that he did. If the Nuggets come back to win this series, this a story that we may be hearing about a lot more. But for Denver, it’s in the rearview now and Murray and the team are locked in on Sunday’s game 4.