Game 4 between the Suns and Nuggets featured some unbelievable individual performances, as Devin Booker and Kevin Durant each scored 36 points on hyper-efficient shooting to lead Phoenix to a win to even the series as they dueled with Nikola Jokic, who scored 53 points, all night.
The shot-making in the game was outrageous on both sides, with the stars of each team knocking down contested shot after contested shot, with each defense left scrambling to figure out what the answers were. The Suns happened to get more from their role players, headlined by Landry Shamet’s hot shooting, which proved to be the difference in sending the series back to Denver tied at 2-2, setting up a pivotal Game 5 on Tuesday night.
While the shot-making stands out, there is a bit of a lingering question as to whether the league will hand down any further punishment to Jokic after he got into an odd altercation courtside with Suns owner Mat Ishbia. After Josh Okogie crashed into the stands, the ball ended up in Ishbia’s lap and Jokic came running over to retrieve it and try to get the ball in with a man advantage. Ishbia and Jokic wrestled over the ball, with it popping into the row behind, and then Jokic gave a little shove with his elbow to the Suns owner, who flopped into his seat.
The referees reviewed the play and handed out a technical foul to Jokic, which Tony Brothers explained after the game was because Jokic “deliberately gave him a shove and pushed him down.” Given that language, the league will certainly look into it further and while unlikely — and something no one should want to see — it’s possible a suspension could be handed out.
After the game, Michael Malone and Nikola Jokic both pushed back at there being a technical given out in the first place, insisting it was “the fan” who initiated everything. Neither was aware it was the Suns new owner, but neither cared about that detail — with Malone saying “I don’t give a sh*t” when told that’s who it was.
As for Jokic, he felt the altercation was initiated by Ishbia, saying the league was supposed to protect the players and noting he thought a fan was supposed to get kicked out if they try to influence the game — which he felt Ishbia did by holding onto the ball and stopping Jokic from getting it to inbound it.
Nikola Jokic on the incident with the Suns owner:
“He told me I was elbowing the fan, but the fan put his hands on me first. I thought the league is supposed to protect us. But maybe I’m wrong.”
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) May 8, 2023
It was a truly bizarre moment in an otherwise thrilling game, and I must say, it would’ve been fairly hilarious to see what would’ve happened if the NBA had try kicking Ishbia out of the game in his arena. We’ll find out Monday whether the league has any further comment on the incident or punishment for either side, but one would hope the technical would suffice as enough punishment and we can get Game 5 at full strength. The star duel in this series has been phenomenal and watching Jokic go up against Booker and Durant has been a highlight of the postseason so far, and it’d be incredibly deflating to not get to see that continue in Game 5.