The Nuggets’ star center, Nikola Jokic, was judged to be technically fouled in the second half of Denver’s Western Conference semifinals, Game 4 in Phoenix on Sunday night after a brief clash with the host. owned by the Suns, Mat Ishbia.
The problem came with 2:36 left in the first half after Jokic blocked Deandre Ayton’s save. Suns guard Josh Okogie and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray scrambled for the loose ball, with Okogie – and the ball – flying into the front row, close to where Ishbia was sitting.
Ishbia ended up with the ball, and Jokic came to try to take it away from him. Jokic was somewhat successful in his attempt, but as he was opening the ball, the Suns host appeared to swing his arm, prompting Jokic to push Ishbia aside.
The gesture sent Ishbia back to his seat, where he swung his arms in the air as fans in the surrounding area reacted with amazement.
Jokic shoves Suns owner Mat Ishbia 😳 pic.twitter.com/5UBBAkM2Ba
– Complex sports (@ComplexSports) May 8, 2023
Chief referee Tony Brothers told a billiards reporter that Jokic was penalized for an unsportsmanlike technique for snatching the ball out of the hands of a “fan” and deliberately shoving him to the ground. The brothers decided not to fire Jokic because he “didn’t run over and hit a fan”.
Ishbia, who played for coach Tom Izzo when he started at Michigan State, said he was fine and more focused on the outcome of the game, which the Suns won 129-124 to level at 2 -2 .
However, Jokic did not believe he was wrong.
Jokic said: “The fans put their hands on me first. “I think the league is supposed to protect us. Maybe I was wrong. I know who he is, but he’s a fan. Right?”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone is behind the MVP twice.
Malone said: “Go get the ball, and some of the fans holding the ball wanted to join the game. “Just bring the ball up, man.”
Jokic finished with a career-high 53 points plus 11 assists and 4 rebounds.
Game 5 is set for Tuesday night in Denver.
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