NBA playoffs: Nikola Jokić squashes beef with Suns owner Mat Ishbia with pregame gesture
After a bizarre Game 4 altercation between Nikola Jokić and Mat Ishbia overshadowed the game itself, the Denver Nuggets center made nice with the Phoenix Suns owner prior to Game 5's Tuesday tip.
Ishbia showed up to a courtside seat despite the series shifting to Denver. He arrived early to watch pregame warmups. Jokić took notice and walked over to hand the ball to Ishbia before heading to the locker room. The two then shared an embrace.
Ishbia did not keep the ball.
Joker’s got jokes. https://t.co/PlscuVA5XV pic.twitter.com/JNI7WnkC02
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 10, 2023
The scene was a far cry from Sunday night in Phoenix. With the game close late in the second quarter, the ball bounced out of bounds and into the courtside seats. Ishbia corralled it. When Jokić went into the seats to retrieve it, Ishbia refused to let go.
Jokić then forcefully pried the ball from Ishbia's hands. Ishbia put his hand on Jokić's lower back, then Jokić shoved him with his forearm. Ishbia fell back into his seat with his arms flailing.
Nikola Jokic shoves Suns Owner Matt Ishbia after trying to get the ball 😬 pic.twitter.com/tnYsILH3kV
— Backcourt Alerts (@BackcourtAlerts) May 8, 2023
Jokić was issued a technical foul, and the Suns went on to win 129-124 to tie the series at 2-2. Jokić was later fined $25,000 but not suspended. Ishbia wasn't disciplined for his involvement and traveled with his team to Denver for Game 5, which the Nuggets won 118-102 to now lead 3-2 with Game 6 on Thursday in Phoenix.
And now the pair appear to be on much better terms.
After the game, Jokić was asked by "Inside The NBA" host Ernie Johnson about the pregame interaction. Jokić said it was just part of his pregame routine, but, "I was hoping he was gonna pay my fine, but no."
"I was hoping he was gonna pay my fine, but no." 🤣🤣
Jokic says it's all good between him and Mat Ishbia after their pre-game exchange 🤝 pic.twitter.com/imR1odhrVV
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 10, 2023
Nuggets coach Michael Malone also made a fine joke in the postgame media availability.
“He’s trying to get his 25 Gs back. He's no dummy," Malone said of Jokić's friendly pregame interaction with Ishbia.