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Nikola Jokic’s honest reaction on flagrant foul against Cameron Payne

Nikola Jokic, Nuggets, Cameron Payne

As the camera zoomed in on Nikola Jokic on the bench—his eyes empty, his thoughts possibly in a smoky haze, and pangs of regret slowly creeping in—it became clear that the Denver Nuggets were finished.

Jokic stood up and dejectedly walked towards the tunnel in what could be the defining image of the Nuggets’ season. As their main man saw a dark end to his stellar season, so did their chances of advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

Jokic was uncharacteristically ejected in Game 4 against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday after a hard hit on guard Cameron Payne in the third quarter. While it clearly was a heavy-handed foul, many were left wondering if it merited an ejection. Against the MVP, no less. After the game, in a clearly somber mood, Jokic explained he never meant to hurt Payne (via ESPN).

“I didn’t want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose.”

The referees, however, saw otherwise. The 26-year-old Jokic was tossed out of the game, bringing an anticlimactic finish to what has been an eventful campaign. With the Nuggets fighting for their life against the Suns, the guy who gave them life all season long was suddenly gone.

Knowing Jokic’s personality, it’s not hard to believe him. He has never been known to be a dirty player. In fact, before he exited the game, he approached Payne and apologized for his hard foul. It was a classy move that should only earn the well-beloved big man more admirers.

The Nuggets put up a valiant stand in the final quarter against the Suns, but the loss of Nikola Jokic was just too much to overcome.