The Denver Nuggets, led by the NBA’s MVP Nikola Jokic, were not in a good situation entering tonight’s Game 4 vs the Phoenix Suns. The Phoenix Suns were up 3-0 in this series making it a statistical inevitability of them winning this round. Phoenix’s frontcourt of Devin Booker and Chris Paul absolutely lit up the game tonight. They combined for 71 points to move on to the first western conference finals since the 2009-10 season.
The officiating clearly was in Phoenix’s favour throughout the game, especially when the MVP Nikola Jokic was tossed out of the Game for a questionable flagrant call. He is only the second MVP to get ejected from a crucial Playoff game after 2016 unanimous MVP Stephen Curry. Nuggets were down 8 points when the altercation between Cameron Payne and Jokic took place and resulted in the latter’s ejection.
An 8-point deficit is completely achievable with a quarter and a half left in a home game, however, the game ended in the Suns’ favour and the Nuggets getting swept from the playoffs.
Here’s why Nikola Jokic was ejected from the game
With 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter and a pretty close game, Nikola Jokic tries to take a shot over Deandre Ayton. He missed the shot but that seemed like the last straw for the MVP.
His frustrations boiled over and he aggressively tried to get the ball out of Cameron Payne’s hand. Jokic does get all ball but because of the strong wind-up, he hits Payne’s shoulder too. Also, Payne really sold the contact and fell on the floor for a considerable time. That led to Booker and Jokic getting into it.
This is the damn problem with the @NBA right now.. you do not make that call vs Jokic a FLAGRANT2. The swipe was a frustration foul. We’ve seen worse. The fans do not attend games for this kind of call. You’ve EJECTED the league-MVP. You don’t do this.#Unreal
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) June 14, 2021
Devin Booker got a technical and Nikola Jokic got a flagrant 2, meaning instant ejection. Prior to the ejection, Nikola was having a good game, scoring 22 points and getting 11 rebounds. Any chances the Denver Nuggets had to scrape that win left with Jokic. The Suns won 125-118 and swept the Denver Nuggets.
NBA players were not satisfied with the Flagrant 2 and Ejection
Ejecting a Star in an elimination game got the NBA riled up. Atlanta Hawks star Point Guard, Trae Young was surprised that it even qualified as a flagrant foul. To think a call like this was made in an elimination game while they are generally avoided in Playoffs. Officiating was clearly unfair for the Denver Nuggets tonight in addition to the clean sweep in the conference semi finals.
A Flagrant 2 ?? Wow.
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) June 14, 2021
Memphis Grizzlies reigning ROTY Ja Morant seemed to be very annoyed by the decision, tweeting a couple of times about the softness of the Modern NBA.
league soft ..
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) June 14, 2021
In addition, he felt like a flagrant 1 should’ve sufficed but a flagrant 2 and ejection just messes up with the rhythm of the game.
Ain’t no ejection cmon man
— RJ (@RjHampton14) June 14, 2021
Head Coach of the Denver Nuggets, Mike Malone, who saw the incident live demanded an explanation for the unnecessarily strict ejection. Nikola Jokic apologized and gave his side of the situation by saying this in the post-game interview,
“I wanted to change the rhythm of the game. [Jokic] Wanted to give us some energy. I tried to make a hard foul, I didn’t want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose.”
In the Pool Report, Crew Chief David Guthrie emphasized that the Ejection was completely on the wind-up and impact and not on the confrontation with Devin Booker. The Denver Nuggets have had a great season but not the best ending. They will look to improve as a team and strengthen their lineup even more next season with Murray returning.