By Justin Adams

DENVER (CBS4) – The final chapter in Nikola Jokic’s MVP season ended 15 minutes before the Phoenix Suns swept the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Jokic was ejected for committing a hard foul on Suns guard Cameron Payne.

With the play, Jokic became the second current MVP to be ejected from a playoff game in the last 25 years. The other was Stephen Curry in 2016 when he threw his mouthpiece and hit a fan. Jokic was surprised when he was ejected for committing a flagrant 2 foul.

DENVER, CO – JUNE 13: Nikola Jokic (15) of the Denver Nuggets and Devin Booker (1) of the Phoenix Suns jaw after Jokic fouled Cameron Payne (15) leading to an ejection for Denver’s MVP center during the third quarter at Ball Arena on Sunday, June 13, 2021. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Phoenix Suns for game four of their best-of-seven NBA Playoffs series. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

“I thought honestly, they’re not going to eject me,” Jokic said. “Then I really didn’t have the time to say something to them. They already know, I didn’t need to say nothing to them, they know.”

Jokic apologized to Payne before he left the floor and went to the locker room. He explained after the game he wasn’t trying to injure Payne, but wanted to change the momentum of the game.

“I wanted to change the rhythm of the game. I wanted to give us some energy, and I tried to make a hard foul. Did I hit him? We don’t know. I say sorry, if I did because I didn’t want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose. I watched the game in the locker room to cool off a little bit,” he said.

In the series loss, Jokic became the fifth MVP to be swept in a playoff series and the first since Magic Johnson in 1989.

“Of course, that didn’t go like how we wanted. They beat us. I think the whole team needs to walk out of the arena with their head up. It is what it is, sometimes we need to accept the loss. Sometimes someone can beat you, accept it and try to be better. Don’t try to think about it that much, you cannot change it,” Jokic said.

Justin Adams