Om YoungmisukESPN staff writer3 minutes of reading
Phoenix — Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was assessed a technical foul in the second quarter of Game 4 on Sunday night following a freak incident in which the two-time MVP made contact with Phoenix Suns owner Matt Ishbia. Start the next play.
With 2:36 left in the second quarter, Suns forward Josh Okogie flew toward the courtside seats, where Ishbia sat across the baseline from the Phoenix bench.
Ogoki tried to play the ball for the Suns and he landed in the seats near Ishbia who finished with the basketball in his hands. As Ishbia went to check on the Suns player, Jokic, as he often does during games, rushed up and quickly grabbed the basketball so the Nuggets could begin their offensive possession.
When Jokic tried to take the ball away from Ishbia, it bounced back into the crowd. As Jokic was asking another fan to return the ball, his left elbow made contact with Ishbia’s chest. Ishbia, a former Michigan State walk-on basketball player who was part of the 2000 national championship team, slumped back in his seat with his hands up and an incredulous look on his face.
Ishfia told The Associated Press that he felt “fine” at halftime and was more concerned about the game than the fight. He returned to his usual seats in the second half.
Referees and Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon arrived to make sure nothing got out of hand and that tensions didn’t flare. Jokic, who finished the game with 53 points, was then called for a technical foul, but the Nuggets led 55-54.
Phoenix would win the Western Conference semifinal series in two games by a final score of 129-124. Game 5 is Tuesday night.
After the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he thought it was “crazy” that Jokic was assessed a technical foul under the circumstances.
“Going to get the ball, and some fan holding the ball that wants to be a part of the game. Just give me the ball, man,” Malone said.
Asked if he thought it made a difference that the fan in question was the Suns’ owner, Malone replied, “I don’t give a s—.”
Ishbia became the owner of Sons a few months after buying a 57% stake from Robert Sarver for $2.28 billion.