'Play ball': NBA world divided over Nikola Jokic ejection

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·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
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Nikola Jokic's hard foul on Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne led to a scuffle between the Suns and Nuggets, and Jokic being ejected from game. Pictures: Getty Images
Nikola Jokic's hard foul on Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne led to a scuffle between the Suns and Nuggets, and Jokic being ejected from game. Pictures: Getty Images

The NBA world has been divided after recently crowned league MVP Nikola Jokic was ejected from game four of Denver's second round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns.

The Nuggets big man was tossed from the game after referees handed him a flagrant 2 for a particularly hard foul on Suns guard Cam Payne.

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Obviously frustrated with the Nuggets down 3-0 in the series and trailing the Suns in the third quarter, Jokic wound up and attempted to smack the ball out of Payne's hands before he could bring it up the floor with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter.

His hack at the ball also caught Payne in the face, with the breakout bench guard staying down on the floor for several minutes while a fracas between the two teams erupted behind him.

NBA replay centre head Jason Phillips told the TNT broadcast that Jokic's hit met the criteria for "unnecessary and excessive contact," resulting in the ejection of the league MVP. 

Nuggets fans obviously disagreed with the decision, and even chanted "M-V-P" as the hit was show on replay. 

Payne stayed in the game, with Jokic appearing to apologise to him before making his way off the floor.

Suns star Devin Booker also received a technical foul from the incident for immediately and physically confronting Jokic after the foul.

Phoenix went on to win the game 125-118, sweeping the Nuggets in four games and advancing to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2010.

NBA fans divided over Nikola Jokic ejection

There was some disagreement on social media over the decision to call the hit a flagrant 2, rather than a flagrant 1. 

That included the NBA's own players, with last year's Rookie of the Year, Ja Morant, saying Jokic can't be kicked out of an elimination game like that.

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Leading the Suns once again was Chris Paul, who scored a season-high 37 points, his most in a playoff game since scoring a playoff career-high 41 in the 2018 postseason.

Paul finished the series averaging 24.3 points, 10.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds in four games, which is pretty good for a 36-year-old who was basically a salary dump two seasons ago. 

Devin Booker also chipped in 34 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, continuing a strong beginning to his playoffs career.

Nikola Jokic was dejected after being thrown out of game four of the Western Conference semi-finals, with the Denver Nuggets eliminated by the Phoenix Suns soon after. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Nikola Jokic was dejected after being thrown out of game four of the Western Conference semi-finals, with the Denver Nuggets eliminated by the Phoenix Suns soon after. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

After falling behind 2-0 in the opening minute, the Suns led for the entire game and by as much as 16 points. 

The Nuggets cut the lead to a single possession four different times, but still couldn't find that next gear, especially after losing their most important player.

Jokic finished with 22 points (9-of-17 shooting), 11 rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers.

Despite losing their star player, the Nuggets still managed to hang around for the game. They cut the lead to as little as five points midway through the fourth quarter.

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