Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic Discusses Game 4 Ejection
Denver Nuggets star big man and league MVP Nikola Jokic was ejected from Game 4 on Sunday night when
Denver Nuggets star big man and league MVP Nikola Jokic was ejected from Game 4 on Sunday night when he took a hard swipe at Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne, which led to officials tossing Jokic from the must win game for the Nuggets.
The Suns completed the sweep on Sunday, beating Denver in 4 games to advance to the Western Conference Finals where they will meet the winner of the series between the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers, but the talk has been about Jokic’s critical ejection and the flagrant 2 that got him booted.
“I wanted to change the rhythm of the game, I wanted to give us some energy, maybe change the whistle a little bit, so I wanted to make a hard foul,” Jokic said, according to ESPN’s Royce Young. “Did I hit him, did I not hit him? We don’t know. So I say sorry if I did because I did not want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose.”
“I thought honestly they would not eject me,” Jokic said.
“I just didn’t feel like it warranted a flagrant 2 ejection because he’s making a play on the ball,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “There’s marginal contact to Cameron Payne’s nose I believe. So I was shocked. I’m still a little bit shocked that they called a flagrant 2 and ejected the MVP on such a play.”
“From my vantage point and watching the replay, I did not think it was a non-basketball play with malicious intent,” Malone said. “I think it was a frustration foul. Nikola probably felt the last couple plays when he had the ball he had not received a foul call. And he went over there to take a foul. Which he has done plenty of times. A lot of players do that.”
Suns head coach Monty Williams seemed to echo the sentiment.
“I didn’t really think it was anything malicious,” Williams said. “In those moments you have to regulate your emotions. That’s what we’ve been talking about all season long.”
Following the foul Jokic and Suns guard Devin Booker needed to be separated.
“That’s all I said, just ‘What are you doing?'” Booker said. “It’s just an emotional play. I don’t think he meant harm by it. Just a frustration foul. It’s tough, just defending my teammate, that was it.
“I’ve played against the Joker multiple times,” Booker said. “I know he’s not a malicious player.”
“I shouldn’t do that. Of course it was my bad. I’m sorry,” Jokic said. “But I cannot change it now. It happens.”
“I’m not going to allow this series to define the season,” Malone said. “Hopefully next year we can find a way to stay healthy and be better and see where we can go.”