With the Phoenix Suns securing the win in Game 4, the series is knotted at two games a piece, and there is a major decision looming ahead of a pivotal Game 5. After his altercation in the first half, there are questions surrounding not only if Denver Nuggets’ star Jokic will be fined, but possibly suspended for the next game.
However, Suns owner Mat Ishbia voiced his support for the Nuggets star after the Suns’ win.
“Great win for the Suns last night in an amazing series so far! That should be and is the only story. Suspending or fining anyone over last night’s incident would not be right,” Ishbia tweeted on May 8. “I have a lot of respect for Jokic and don’t want to see anything like that. Excited for game 5! Go Suns!”
The importance of Game 4 was on full display in a one-point game with 2:42 left in the second quarter. Suns guard Josh Okogie was battling for possession of the basketball with Jokic which resulted in the ball going into the stands.
After the referee ruled it to be the Nuggets’ possession, Jokic went into the crowd to get the ball from a fan, who he inadvertently elbowed, resulting in a technical foul for the two-time NBA MVP. However, the fan turned out to be Suns’ owner Matt Ishbia.
Malone, Nikola Jokic Sound Off on Mat Ishbia
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the second-quarter altercation between the Jokic and Ishbia. Although Ishbia was technically a fan, he is still a team official, which questions how the NBA should rule during their investigation.
But another thing that should be considered is that the entire kerfuffle started because Ishbia held the ball away from Jokic, who was trying to put it into play. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone says he “doesn’t understand” why Jokic was given a technical in that situation.
“[Jokic] is going to get the ball, and some fan was holding the ball like he wants to be part of the game … They deemed Nikola doing something excessive, I guess, and they gave him a tech, but I still don’t understand it,” Malone told reporters after the loss via NBA Interviews.
One reporter then informed the Nuggets head coach that the fan in question was the Suns’ owner, and Malone had an NSFW response to Ishbia. “I don’t give a s—. I really don’t care,” he added.
Jokic also seemed to be puzzled by the situation.
“The fan put the hand on me first,” Jokic said after the game. “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?”
Krawczynski: ‘Optics’ Should Be Key In Nikola Jokic Decision
The NBA has a long history of coming down hard on players who have altercations with fans. Per the NBA Rule book, “any coach, player, trainer, or other team bench person who deliberately enters the spectator stands during the game will be automatically ejected and the incident reported by e-mail to Basketball Operations. The first row of seats is considered the beginning of the stands.”
Under normal circumstances, Jokic’s actions could warrant him being suspended for Game 5. However, senior writer Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic believes that should not be the case because of the “optics” of the altercation.
“Let’s look more at the optics of the situation, which, yes, we know, is never taken into consideration by the powers that be in the league office. They only look at the incident in a vacuum with zero context or consideration for the setting, the players involved, or anything like that,” Krawczynski writes via The Athletic.
“Let’s be real here. This series is tied 2-2 and headed back to Denver. Jokic is the most important player on the Nuggets. Taking him out for a game could change the outcome of this series. As we saw with Draymond Green in the NBA Finals, the league has a history of not letting that influence its decision.”