DENVER — The Phoenix Suns roared into the Western Convention Finals for the primary time in 11 years Sunday night time with a testy 125-118 victory over Denver that accomplished a four-game sweep.
The Nuggets? Properly, they went down preventing.
Chris Paul scored 37 factors and Devin Booker added 34 in a bodily sport marred by MVP Nikola Jokic’s ejection for a flagrant foul within the third quarter.
Jokic was tossed with 3:52 left within the third quarter and his Nuggets trailing 83-76 after his exhausting right-hand windmill swipe despatched the ball flying but additionally caught Cameron Payne within the face.
Jokic stated he meant solely to commit a tough foul on Payne.
“I didn’t wish to injure him or hit him within the head on objective,” he stated.
Booker took umbrage on the exhausting foul and acquired within the huge man’s face earlier than teammates and coaches pulled everybody aside.
Officers assessed a double technical on Jokic and Booker and ejected the MVP after upping the decision to a Flagrant 2. Jokic completed with 22 factors and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes.
The Nuggets and their followers at Ball Enviornment had been annoyed that they had been getting referred to as for ticky-tack fouls but Jokic wasn’t getting the calls anticipated of a Most Helpful Participant.
“Earlier than that they had decided their choice on the Flagrant 2, I had watched a replay myself on one of many coaches’ computer systems behind the bench and I simply assumed it will be a Flagrant 1 on the worst,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone stated.
“From my vantage level in watching the replay, I didn’t suppose it was a non-basketball play with malicious intent. I believe it was a frustration. Nikola most likely felt the final couple of performs when he had the ball he had no acquired a foul name and he went over there to take a foul, which he is carried out loads of occasions earlier than. A variety of gamers do this.
“I did not really feel prefer it warranted a Flagrant 2 ejection as a result of he is making a play on the ball,” Malone stated. “There’s marginal contact to Cameron Payne’s nostril, I imagine. So, I used to be shocked. I am nonetheless a bit bit shocked that they referred to as a Flagrant 2 and ejected the MVP on such a play.”
Suns coach Monty Williams additionally was stunned.
“I didn’t actually suppose it was something malicious,” Williams stated. “In these moments it’s a must to regulate your feelings. That’s what we’ve been speaking about all season lengthy.”
With their franchise-record seventh straight playoff victory, the Suns superior to the convention championship for the primary time since 2010 — the final time they even reached the playoffs.
After knocking out LeBron James and the defending champion Lakers in Spherical 1, the Suns shortly dispatched Denver and made Jokic the primary MVP to get swept in a playoff collection since Magic Johnson in 1989.
Will Barton led Denver, which trailed by 13 heading into the fourth quarter, with 25 factors, Michael Porter Jr. added 20 and Monte Morris 19.
The Nuggets survived the lack of star Jamal Murray to a torn ACL on April 12, profitable 13 of 18 to shut out the common season and taking good care of the Portland Path Blazers in 5 video games within the opening spherical.
However when second scoring possibility Porter tweaked his surgically repaired again within the first half of Sport 1 in opposition to Phoenix, it was one harm too far for the Nuggets to beat.
Denver coach Michael Malone stated earlier than tip-off that the Nuggets could not actually depend on their expertise from the bubble in overcoming a pair of 3-1 deficits within the playoffs final 12 months. For one factor, Murray’s recovering from knee surgical procedure.
Malone stated the Nuggets’ solely focus was on sending this collection again to Phoenix for a Sport 5.
As an alternative, Jokic grew to become the primary MVP to get swept in a playoff collection because the Pistons downed Magic Johnson and the Lakers in 4 within the NBA Finals in 1989.
Jokic’s ejection got here 48 hours after an emotional celebration earlier than Sport 3 through which the Serbian devoted his MVP trophy to his teammates, coaches, trainers and the entrance workplace.
The one NBA participant to play all 72 video games this season, Jokic spent the fourth quarter in his locker room as his teammates’ comeback with out him fell brief.
Regardless of the sweep and Jokic’s early exit, followers chanted, “MVP! MVP” as they streamed out of the world.
Suns: Phoenix trailed simply as soon as at 2-0 earlier than Booker’s 3-pointer put the Suns up for good. … Paul shot 14 of 19 from the ground and made all 9 of his free throws.
Nuggets: Murray shot one-footed jumpers earlier than the sport and drew a loud ovation when he drained one from halfcourt as he walked off. … Malone shook up his stagnant beginning lineup, sitting Facundo Compazzo and Austin Rivers for Morris and Barton.
Extra AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports activities
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