The pressure was high when the Phoenix Suns took on the Denver Nuggets in the fourth game of the Western Semifinals. In the first quarter of the highly competitive match, the action was confined to the court. However, in the second quarter an unexpected altercation altered the atmosphere at the Footprint Center. Drama and controversy ensued when Nikola Jokic got into an altercation Mat Ishbia, the owner of the Phoenix Suns.
The ball was out of bounds with about 2 minutes and 36 seconds left on the clock. Ishbia was holding the ball and Jokic tried to pull it off the Suns owner. The Nuggets star shoved Ishbia while attempting to get the ball. Ishbia flopped after taking the elbow and pretended to be injured. Jokic received an unsportsmanlike penalty for his role in the altercation.
Jokic was questioned about the incident during his after-game interview. In response to a query about the referee’s intention, the former MVP said: “He told [me] that I elbowed the fan. The fan touched me first. I thought that the league was supposed to protect us. We will see .”
Jokic replied that he didn’t know the fan. He added, “If he is sitting courtside, then he is a fan.” Jokic also replied candidly, “Why should I be worried about a suspension? They won’t protect me because his hands were on mine? They’re going to protect the fan?” Jokic said further about Ishbias’ actions, “He is influencing the match.” I think he should be kicked out .”
Will Nikola Jokic be suspended for Game 5 against the Suns?
Jokic answered questions regarding why he didn’t wait to get the ball from the referee and instead took it upon himself. Ishbia, according to the Nuggets star, knew exactly what he did by holding the basketball and making sure Denver couldn’t have a fastbreak. Jokic said that the Nuggets had the upper hand in the last four minutes. He took it upon himself, therefore, to get the ball.
Could Jokic’s actions lead to a ban? This question is complex. NBA Rulebook states that players are ejected if they “deliberately enter the stands, other than to continue play.” This rulebook specifically states that a player can’t enter the stands. Jokic was only courtside to retrieve a ball.
Ishbia’s interference in the play makes things even more complicated. It is a question of interpretation. It is likely that the answer will come as early as Monday. The fans will be watching this matter closely to see if the twice-named MVP misses a crucial postseason game because of an innocent altercation. The Phoenix Suns will play the Denver Nuggets in Game 5.