With 3:52 to play in the third quarter and the Nuggets behind the Suns by eight points, the NBA MVP gave Cameron Payne a hard blow after not committing his own fault, releasing the ball but also hitting Payne in the face.
The foul sparked a brawl between the two groups of players, with Jokic and Devin Booker coming face to face in the middle of it all.
After everyone was separated, Jokic was given a flagrant foul of 2 – meaning he was kicked out of the game – while Booker was given a technical foul.
Afterward, Jokic said he only committed the fault as a spark for his team and apologized to Payne.
“I wanted to change the pace of the game, I wanted to give us energy,” he told the media. “I tried to make a hard mistake. Did I hit him? I did not know. I apologize if I did that because I didn’t mean to hurt him or hit him on the head on purpose. “
With the Nuggets’ season on the line in the face of playoff elimination, members of the sports fraternity took to social media to question whether it was the right decision to kick Jokic out.
After their seventh straight playoff win, a franchise record, Booker admitted he had nothing against Jokic, saying it was an “emotional game.”
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“I don’t think he wanted to hurt,” he told media. “It was just a fault of frustration. It was difficult to defend my teammate. That was all. I saw him go to Cam (Payne) after and apologize. I have played against the Joker several times. I know he is not a malicious gamer. “
The Suns have advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2010 – the last time they even reached the playoffs.