Nikola Jokic said "I need to protect myself" but admits he regrets the "stupid play" that saw him ejected for a violent shove on Markieff Morris in the Denver Nuggets' 113-96 win over the Miami Heat.
League MVP Jokic reacted angrily when Morris came in with a hard foul midcourt, catching his opponent with a left elbow to the chest.
Jokic furiously chased Morris down and responded with a right forearm shove to the back, sending the Heat star crashing heavily to the court.
A suspension and fine could now be on the cards for Jokic, who later rued his moment of madness.
"It's a stupid play. I feel bad. I am not supposed to react that way," he told reporters.
"I thought it was going to be a take foul. I think it was a dirty play. And I just needed to protect myself. I felt bad. I am not supposed to react that way, but I need to protect myself."
He added: "I don't know who showed me the clip, and actually his head snapped back [after the shove], so I feel really bad. It's a bad move."
It poses a potential dilemma for Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, who was without the already injured Jamal Murray on Monday, while Michael Porter Jr. was absent with a lower back issue.
If Jokic is suspended as well, the Nuggets could be without their three best players when they face the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
"I will concern myself when they tell us he's suspended," Malone said.
"I am not going to waste any of my time looking into my crystal ball and my tea leaves. I don't have any of that.
"He's available until they tell me he's not. And I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be available Wednesday night."
Jokic's indiscretion came with just two minutes and 39 seconds remaining in a game where he had produced a triple-double of 25 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra labelled Jokic's retaliation as "uncalled for".
"That was a very dangerous and dirty play," he said.
"Keef took a foul, and it was one of those fastbreak-take fouls, and he did with his shoulder. You might deem that maybe as a little bit more than just slapping somebody, but after watching it on film, it was a take foul.
"That's how I saw it. And the play after, that's just absolutely uncalled for."
The Nuggets moved to 6-4 with the win to sit sixth in the Western Conference, while the 7-3 Heat are second in the east.