Nuggets center Nikola Jokic said his minor confrontation with Suns owner Mat Ishbia really was about Ishbia standing in his way — and nothing more.
The incident occurred during the Nuggets’ 129-124 road loss to the Suns in Game 4 on Sunday, after the ball had gone into the stands and Jokic went to retrieve it. Jokic did not enter the stands, but he did go courtside by the fans. Ishbia stood up, seemingly aggressively, near Jokic — and Jokic used his off forearm to nudge Ishbia to the side. Ishbia fell back into his chair.
Jokic received a technical foul on the play but was not ejected. The NBA rulebook states that players cannot enter the stands for any reason other than to chase a loose ball. But that’s the tricky part — Jokic did not enter the stands. Again, he was standing courtside.
Great flop by Mat Ishbia to draw the foul pic.twitter.com/oFCMKSyfjF
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 8, 2023
“(Official Tony Brothers) told me I was elbowing the fan,” Jokic told reporters of why he received the technical foul, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “But the fan put the hand on me first. So, I thought the league’s supposed to protect us or whatever, but maybe I’m wrong, so we will see.”
Jokic added on Ishbia: “He’s a fan, isn’t he? He cannot influence the game by holding the ball.”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone added that he didn’t agree with the call on Jokic. When asked about Ishbia being the “fan” in question, Malone was even more direct.
“I don’t give a s***. I really don’t care,” Malone said.
For the record, Jokic erupted for 53 points in the loss. That is a Denver franchise record for the postseason.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone was upset Nikola Jokic was called for a technical foul during the incident with Suns owner Mat Ishbia. When asked if Malone thought it made a difference that the fan was Ishbia, he replied, “I don’t give a ?” pic.twitter.com/dYaxE4OPSw
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) May 8, 2023