DENVER (AP) – The Denver Nuggets remain hopeful that center Nikola Jokic receives no additional punishment by the league after he made contact in the stands with Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia.
Ishbia feels the same way.
On his Twitter account Monday, Ishbia praised his team’s performance and urged no further disciplinary action for the Nuggets’ two-time NBA MVP.
“Great win for the Suns last night in an amazing series so far!” Ishbia posted. “That should be and is the only story. Suspending or fining anyone over last nights incident would not be right. I have alot of respect for Jokic and don’t want to see anything like that. Excited for game 5! Go Suns!”
A fine from the league could be in line for Jokic. Or no punishment at all. But a suspension isn’t out of the realm of possibility, either. The second-round series is moving back to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday night tied at 2-2 after both teams won at home.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Monday that he hasn’t heard from the league.
“I don’t deal with the NBA in those matters. That’s something that a front office would be dealing with,” Malone said. “I’m worried about trying to help our guys out to find a way to come home and win Game 5 to take this lead again.”
Jokic was assessed a technical foul in the second quarter of Game 4 on Sunday night when the big man tried to snatch the ball back from Ishbia, who was sitting courtside, and hit Ishbia with an elbow.
The situation set social media ablaze and overshadowed a game in which the Suns won 129-124. One of the topics up for debate was whether it was a flop by Ishbia, a former walk-on basketball player at Michigan State, or excessive contact from Jokic.
“I was hoping they’d give him a flopping charge,” Malone said of Ishbia. “That would probably be the only fine I could imagine, but I have no idea.”
The mini-fracas began when Suns guard Josh Okogie crashed into the seats while trying to save a loose ball. He landed in a group of fans on the baseline that included Ishbia, who held on to the basketball.
Jokic was trying to get the ball quickly – apparently so the Nuggets could start getting into their offensive possession – when he attempted to grab the ball away from Ishbia. The ball flew backward into the crowd, and then Ishbia was knocked backward by Jokic’s elbow.
Jokic defended his actions after a game in which he had 53 points and 11 assists.
“The fan put the hand on me first,” Jokic explained. “I thought the league was supposed to protect us. Maybe I am wrong. I know who he is, but he is a fan. Isn’t he?”
“That’s not an owner in the stands. He’s a fan,” Malone said Monday. “We don’t designate who’s in the stands. I just felt after watching that whole incident, Nikola is just trying to get the ball. I felt the embellishment was almost comical, from my standpoint.”
There were a few minutes of confusion as officials sorted out the weird scene, and then Jokic was assessed a technical foul. The Suns made the ensuing free throw.
Devin Booker finished with 36 points and 12 assists. He also gave a shout-out to the Suns owner.
“He got us a point!” Booker said with a grin.
Ishbia has been the Suns’ owner for only a few months, purchasing the team from the embattled Robert Sarver.
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.
The tiff didn’t seem to bother Jokic, either – the MVP runner-up scored or assisted on 78 points Sunday, which was the most in a playoff game by a center in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.