Tensions flared late in the first half of Game 4 between the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns in what has been a very close game. Emotions were already high with the Suns facing a must-win situation in the NBA Playoffs to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole and having to face elimination going back to the Nuggets homecourt. After Josh Okogie fell out of bounds with the ball, Nikola Jokic apparently went over to retrieve the ball and ended up exchanging words and making physical contact with Suns owner Mat Ishbia. He was hit with an unsportsmanlike technical foul.
Should Nikola Jokic receive more punishment for the elbow on Suns owner Mat Ishbia?
Or did Ishbia flop? 🧐pic.twitter.com/pvqagkNc83
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 8, 2023
After Okogie had fallen out of bounds, the ball ended up in Mat Ishbia's hands and he just held on to the ball rather than giving back to the officials. Jokic comes over to get the ball and once he has possession of it, Ishbia seemingly knocks it out of his hands and causes it to fly further into the crowd. Ishbia stands up and approaches Jokic who shoves him lightly with his elbow. Ishbia apparently has been watching a lot of NBA basketball as he immediately flops upon contact.
While players shouldn't be putting their hands on spectators, the incident also raises the question as to fan behavior towards players regardless of who the spectator is. Ishbia clearly escalates the situation with his antics while Jokic was just trying to get the ball back to resume play.
In any case, Jokic can't afford to get himself punished with his team on the verge of taking a commanding lead in this NBA Playoffs second round series.