(Los Angeles) “I thought the NBA was supposed to protect us, but maybe I’m wrong,” lamented Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, who could face a suspension after slightly shoving the Suns owner , in the middle of the playoffs on Sunday.
The incident occurred shortly before the break of this meeting finally won by Phoenix (129-124), when the Serbian giant tried to get the ball out of bounds, to perform a quick throw-in.
But a spectator, who was none other than Suns owner Mat Ishbia, got the ball in his hands, after his team’s player Josh Okogie failed to save it. The leader did not want to let Jokic take the ball.
In the aftermath, the Serb pushed Ishbia away who had just touched him and somewhat exaggerated his fall in his chair. The double most valuable player in 2021 and 2022 then received a technical foul.
“The ref told me I nudged the fan, but he put his hands on me first,” Jokic defended after the game.
“Somebody sitting on the edge of the pitch, they’re a fan, right? He cannot influence the game by holding the ball. They won’t protect me as a player? Are they going to protect the fan? I think we are supposed to protect the players. They’ll say what they want, but he should have been kicked out of the room.”
Referee Tony Brothers explained that the Nuggets center was penalized for “deliberately shoving and pushing down” the spectator. Asked why he didn’t rule it out, the referee argued that Jokic “didn’t hit” the person.
The incident could have adverse consequences for Jokic, such as a suspension. But after his 53 points scored, admittedly in vain in this game, his absence would be a huge blow for Denver, which will host Phoenix on Tuesday, the two teams being tied 2-2 in their Western Conference semi-finals.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone also took offense, saying he found it “crazy” that Jokic was sanctioned. “He went for the ball and a fan grabbed the ball, wanting to be part of the game. Just drop the ball, man,” he said.
When told it was the owner of the Suns, Malone replied, “I don’t care.”