Even in a sweep, Nikola Jokic’s MVP season ended earlier than expected.
With his team down 3-0 in the Western Conference semifinals, the Denver Nuggets star was ejected from Game 4 for a flagrant 2 foul. Jokic received the foul for a hard blow to the face of Suns guard Cameron Payne, which was deemed to have “wind-up, impact and follow-through.”
It would prove to be Jokic’s final play of the season:
NBA replay center 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.
Suns star Devin Booker also received a technical foul from the incident for immediately and physically confronting Jokic after the foul.
While Payne fell to the floor after the hit, he was healthy enough to remain in the game. Jokic also appeared to apologize to Payne while still on the floor.
Jokic’s ejection was the absolute last thing the Nuggets needed at the time, with the team down eight points in the game and a loss away from elimination. They would eventually lose 125-118, becoming the first team with the NBA MVP to get swept since the 1989 Los Angeles Lakers.
NBA players react to Nikola Jokic’s 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 saying Jokic can’t be kicked out of an elimination game like that:
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