Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has apologized after NBA MVP was ejected for punching Phoenix Suns goalie Cameron Payne out of the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday. Jokic caught Payne in the face as the Serbian tried to steal the ball with 3:52 left in the third quarter.
Suns goaltender Devin Booker faced Jokic after the foul and the teams scuffled briefly before being separated. Jokic was ejected following an examination. He finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds as Denver lost Game 4 118-125 and was swept 4-0 in the top seven series.
“I honestly thought they wouldn’t kick me out,” Jokic said. “I wanted to change the pace of the game, I wanted to give us energy, maybe change the whistle a bit, so I wanted to make a hard foul.
“Did I hit him, didn’t I hit him? We don’t know. So I apologize if I did because I didn’t mean to hurt him or hit him on the head. on purpose.” Booker, who received a technical foul for the showdown, said Jokic’s foul was an “emotional game.”
“I don’t think he meant to hurt,” Booker said. “Just a foul of frustration. It’s hard to defend my teammate, that was all. I know he’s not a malicious player,” he said of Jokic.
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