Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets were desperately fighting for their lives during the 2021 NBA playoffs against the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were leading 83-75 after the “Joker” missed a layup against Deandre Ayton.
Then Suns forward Mikal Bridges grabbed the missed shot and passed it to Cameron Payne. Perhaps frustrated by what he thought was a foul on Ayton in the last play, Jokic did this:
Jokic, who won his first of two MVPs that year, deliberately and forcefully swatted the ball and hit Payne in the face. Reggie Miller, who was calling the game on TNT, commented that such a blow could have broken the point guard’s nose.
Devin Booker, who saw what happened, quickly went over to confront Nikola Jokic. The Serbian superstar nudged “Book” before the two heatedly confronted each other. They would have been nose-to-nose if Denver’s superstar center wasn’t nearly a foot taller.
Teammates from both teams on the floor and the Nuggets coaching staff successfully separated the two. Jokic’s brothers, who watched the action unfold behind the Denver bench, shouted at Booker, probably wanting a piece of the Suns superstar.
The “Joker” was assessed with a Flagrant foul 2 and automatic ejection. Denver was swept as Jokic’s season ended in the third quarter of Game 4 against the Suns.
The 2021 playoffs between the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets was the first time both teams met since 1990. Phoenix also swept Denver in that series.
Nikola Jokic couldn’t be blamed for the sweep against the Suns in 2021. He averaged 25.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.3 blocks. Jamal Murray was injured and didn’t play in the series. Jokic relied on Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton and Monte Morris. Barton and Morris aren’t even on the team anymore.
Despite the ejection, he still finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Phoenix Suns in this year’s playoffs
With a fully healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Phoenix Suns in six games. In two years, the tables have turned. Chris Paul injured his right groin in Game 3 and the Suns had a glaring lack of depth after trading for Kevin Durant.
Devin Booker had a historically great series but it wasn’t enough to carry the Suns. The lethal shooting guard averaged 30.8 points on 56.9% shooting, including 54.8% from behind the arc. They would have been swept had it not been for Booker’s mind-boggling offensive onslaught.
Nikola Jokic was just as dominant if not even more so in a more balanced way. He put up 34.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, 10.3 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals. Jokic had 53 points in Game 4, tied for seventh most in NBA playoffs history.
The “Joker” is leading his team in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Denver lost in Game 2, which evened the series despite Jokic’s 41 points.
The Nuggets are poised to be legit title contenders for years to come if Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are healthy. The Phoenix Suns, who just hired Frank Vogel as their new coach, have some big decisions to make to keep up.
Also read: Why is Nikola Jokic called The Joker?