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Hawks’ Dejounte Murray suspended one game for making contact with referee

“I think there was frustration over the course of the game that built up,” Atlanta Coach Quin Snyder said of Dejounte Murray, “and he didn’t handle it the way he needs to.” (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Hawks guard Dejounte Murray was suspended one game by the NBA on Monday after an altercation with a referee at the end of Game 4 of Atlanta’s playoff series against the Boston Celtics.

The suspension without pay will keep Murray sidelined for Tuesday’s Game 5 at Boston. That could be the final contest of the Hawks’ season, given that they’re facing a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series.

The NBA’s announcement of the suspension, made by the league’s basketball operations chief, Joe Dumars, said Murray was being punished for “making inappropriate contact with and verbally abusing a game official.”

The incident occurred Sunday after the final buzzer sounded in Boston’s 129-121 win in Atlanta. As the teams were leaving the floor, Murray went over to official Gediminas Petraitis and bumped his chest into the referee’s right shoulder. Petraitis then turned and gave Murray a long look as the 26-year-old guard was led away by team staffers while appearing to shout at someone on the court.

Murray did not speak with reporters after the game. On Monday, following news of the suspension, Hawks Coach Quin Snyder said “Dejounte recognizes his part in the situation, and that that’s just not something you can do.”

“I think there was frustration over the course of the game that built up,” Snyder added, “and he didn’t handle it the way he needs to.”

The loss of Atlanta’s second-leading scorer this season could be a major blow to its hopes of staving off elimination. In his first season with the Hawks after coming over from the San Antonio Spurs in a blockbuster trade, Murray also led his new team in minutes per game (36.5) and steals (1.5), and he was second in assists (6.1).

“He contributes in a lot of ways: defensive matchups, creating shots for other people, being able to score both generally throughout the game and also in timely situations,” Snyder said of Murray, who earned an all-star selection last season while with the Spurs. “He’s shown that he can do that.”

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It is the second player suspension handed out by the NBA this postseason, following a one-game ban served by the Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green for stepping on the chest of Domantas Sabonis of the Sacramento Kings. Early in the regular season, the Celtics’ Grant Williams was suspended without pay for making contact with a game official during an October loss to the Chicago Bulls.

In Sunday’s win, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum also made contact with a referee, but it was arguably of a more incidental nature, and the league has not acted against the four-time all-star. On the play, Tatum appeared irked after Atlanta’s Trae Young grabbed his arm, sending Tatum to the floor on a layup attempt.

Tatum and teammate Jaylen Brown each scored 31 points to lead Boston to the brink of a series win, while Young led all scorers with 35 points. Murray had a 23-point outing for the Hawks, with nine rebounds and six assists, but he also had three turnovers, committed four fouls and posted a game-worst minus-16 in plus-minus.

The winner of the series moves on to face the Philadelphia 76ers, whose Saturday win over the Brooklyn Nets wrapped up a four-game sweep.

“As much as anything, our mind-set needs to be one that we need to control what we can control,” Snyder said Monday. “That, as unfortunate as this is, we’ve got a game to play tomorrow, and our season’s on the line. Our guys recognize that.”

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