Ohm YoungmisukESPN staff writerRead 2 minutes
PHOENIX — Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was assessed a technical foul late in the second quarter of Game 4 on Sunday night, following a dramatic incident that saw the two-time MVP try to grab Phoenix Suns owner Matt Ishbia. Basketball to start the next game.
The scene occurred with 2:36 left in the second quarter as Suns forward Josh Okogie flew into the courtside seats while Ishbia sat on the baseline off the Phoenix bench.
Okogie was trying to keep the ball in play for the Suns as he landed on the seats near Ishbia, basketball in hand. As Ishbia went to check on a Suns player, Jokic, as he often does in games, sprinted to grab the basketball and the Nuggets started their offensive drive.
As Jokic tries to take the ball away from Ishbia, it flies back. Jokic was standing there asking another fan for the ball when his left elbow made contact with Ishbia’s chest. Ishbia, a former Michigan State football player who was part of the 2000 national championship team, threw his arms up and fell backwards on his face in disbelief.
“He’s fine,” Ishbia told The Associated Press at halftime and was more concerned about the game than the controversy. He returned to his usual seat in the second half.
Judges and Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon came to the scene to make sure nothing got out of hand and the tension didn’t rise. Jokic, who finished with a game-high 53 points, later received a technical foul, but the Nuggets stayed in the game leading 55-54.
Phoenix could win two games into the Western Conference semifinals with a final score of 129-124. Game 5 is Tuesday night.
After the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he thought it was “crazy” for Jokic to be assessed a technical foul in that situation.
“I’m going to get the ball, and some fan is grabbing the ball that wants to be a part of the game. Just give him the ball,” Malone said.
“I don’t give a s—,” Malone replied when asked if he thought the fan in question owned the Suns.
Ishbia has owned Sun for just a few months after buying a controlling 57% stake from Robert Sarver for $2.28 billion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.