PHOENIX (AP) — Denver Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic was assessed a technical foul in the second quarter of Game 4 on Sunday after an altercation with Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia.
Late in the second quarter, Suns guard Josh Okogie crashed into the seats while trying to save a loose ball. He landed in a group of fans on the baseline that included Ishbia, who grabbed the basketball.
Jokic was trying to get the basketball quickly — apparently so the Nuggets could start their offensive possession — when he tried to take the ball away from Ishbia. The ball flew backward into the crowd, and then Ishbia was knocked backward by Jokic’s elbow.
Jokic was unapologetic after the game, which the Suns won 129-124.
“The fan put the hand on me first,” Jokic said. “I thought the league was supposed to protect us. Maybe I am wrong. I know who he is, but he is a fan. Isn’t he?
Said Nuggets coach Michael Malone: “(Jokic) is going to get the ball and some fan is holding on to the ball like he wants to be part of the game. Just give the ball up, man.”
There were a few minutes of confusion as officials sorted out the weird scene, and then Jokic was assessed a technical foul. The Suns made the ensuing free throw.
Suns star Devin Booker — who finished with 36 points and 12 assists — said he knew it was Ishbia in the middle of the fracas.
“He got us a point!” Booker said with a grin.
Ishbia told The Associated Press at halftime that he was “fine” and more worried about the game than the altercation. He was back in his usual seats in the second half. The tiff didn’t seem to bother Jokic either — the MVP runner-up finished with 53 points on 20-of-30 shooting.
Ishbia has only been the Suns’ owner for a few months, purchasing the team from the embattled Robert Sarver.
Game 5 is on Tuesday in Denver. The series is tied at two games each.
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