NBA MVP Nikola Jokic ejected as Suns dump Nuggets out of playoffs

NBA MVP Nikola Jokic ejected as Suns dump Nuggets out of playoffs

Chris Paul scored 37 points, Devin Booker added 34 and Phoenix beat Denver 125-118 to complete a four-game sweep of their NBA Western Conference semifinal series.

NBA MVP Nikola Jokic was ejected in the third quarter with his Nuggets trailing 83-76 after his hard swipe sent the basketball flying but also caught Cameron Payne in the face. Officials assessed a double technical on Jokic and Booker and ejected the MVP after upping the call to a Flagrant 2.

Jokic said he meant only to commit a hard foul on Payne to spark his team. “I wanted to change the rhythm of the game, I wanted to give us some energy,” Jokic said. “I tried to make a hard foul. Did I hit him? I didn’t know. I say sorry if I did because I didn’t want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose.”

Booker took umbrage at the hard foul and got in the big man’s face before teammates and coaches pulled everyone apart.

“It was just an emotional play,” Booker said. “I don’t think he meant harm by it. It was just a frustration foul. It was tough, just defending my teammate. That was it. I saw him go up to Cam after and apologize. I’ve played against the Joker multiple times. I know he’s not a malicious player.”

Jokic finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes.

With their franchise-record seventh straight playoff victory, the Suns advanced to the conference championship for the first time since 2010, the last time they even reached the playoffs.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 34 points and the Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 107-96 Game 4 victory to tie the second-round playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets, who lost Kyrie Irving to a sprained right ankle.

The Bucks erased a 2-0 deficit by winning two straight in Milwaukee. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn’s immediate concern is the health of their superstar trio. Irving was hurt midway through the second quarter and didn’t return. The Nets already are missing nine-time All-Star and 2018 MVP James Harden, who hasn’t played since the opening minute of Game 1 due to right hamstring tightness.

That puts even more pressure on Kevin Durant, who has carried the Nets this series and provided 28 points and 13 rebounds Sunday. The only other player in double figures was Irving, who had 11 points before leaving.

After Irving made a basket in the paint to cut the Bucks’ lead to 44-40 midway through the second quarter, his left leg hit the right leg of Antetokounmpo on his way down and his ankle rolled. Irving landed awkwardly and clutched his right ankle as play briefly continued on the other end of the floor. Coach Steve Nash said after the game that X-rays taken on Irving’s ankle were negative.

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