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Nikola Jokic gets tech after making contact with Suns owner

PHOENIX — Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was assessed a technical foul late in the second quarter of Game 4 on Sunday night following a bizarre incident courtside that saw the two-time MVP make contact with Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia as he was attempting to grab the basketball to start the next play.

The scene occurred with 2:36 remaining in the second quarter as Suns forward Josh Okogie went flying toward the courtside seats, where Ishbia sits across the baseline from the Phoenix bench.

Okogie was trying to keep the ball in play for the Suns when he landed in the seats near Ishbia, who ended up with the basketball in his hands. As Ishbia went to check on the Suns player, Jokic, as he often does during games, rushed over and went to grab the basketball quickly so the Nuggets could start their offensive possession.

As Jokic tried to take the ball away from Ishbia, it flew backward into the crowd. While Jokic stood there asking for the ball back from another fan, his left elbow made contact with Ishbia’s chest. Ishbia, a former Michigan State walk-on basketball player who was part of the 2000 national championship team, fell backward into his seat with his arms up and an incredulous look on his face.

Ishbia told The Associated Press at halftime that he was “fine” and more worried about the game than the altercation. He was back in his usual seats in the second half.

Referees and Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon came over to make sure nothing got out of hand and that tensions did not flare up. Jokic, who finished with a game-high 53 points, was later handed a technical foul but remained in the game with the Nuggets leading 55-54. Phoenix would go on to win by a final score of 129-124 to even the Western Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.

Crew chief Tony Brothers, speaking to a pool reporter after the game, said the Nuggets center was issued an unsportsmanlike technical foul because after he grabbed the ball away from “the fan,” Jokic “deliberately gave him a shove and pushed him down.”

Brothers, in explaining his decision not to eject Jokic, noted that he “didn’t just run over and hit a fan.”

“There was some engagement, so I deemed the technical foul the appropriate penalty,” Brothers said.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he thought it was “crazy” that Jokic was assessed a technical foul in that situation.

“Going to get the ball, and some fan is holding onto the ball who wants be a part of the game. Just give the ball up, man,” Malone said.

When asked if he thought it made a difference that the fan in question was the Suns’ owner, Malone replied, “I don’t give a s—.”

Ishbia has been the Suns’ owner for only a few months after purchasing a controlling 57% stake from Robert Sarver for $2.28 billion.

Game 5 is Tuesday night.

This story originally appeared on ESPN

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