Nikola Jokic ejected from Game 4 for hard foul on Cameron Payne
Nikola Jokic's hard foul sparked a heated confrontation between the NBA MVP and Suns guard Devin Booker, who intervened on Cameron Payne’s behalf. Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was ejected from Sunday’s Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinals for a hard foul on Suns guard Cameron Payne.

With just under four minutes left in the third quarter, Jokic went for a steal on Payne. Jokic wound up and his arm struck Payne in the face on the follow-through, sending the Phoenix guard to the floor. The foul also sparked a heated confrontation between Jokic and Suns guard Devin Booker, who intervened on Payne’s behalf.

Here’s another look showing Jokic’s arm striking Payne’s face.

Jokic was assessed a flagrant 2, as officials ruled that there was a windup and a follow-through with violent contact to Payne’s face. That meant Jokic was automatically ejected from the game. Booker was assessed a technical foul for his role in the ensuing confrontation.

Jokic looked genuinely shocked at the call and his ejection.

The Nuggets are facing elimination down 3-0, and the Suns had spent the third quarter slowly extending their lead over Denver. Jokic was almost certainly frustrated, and the moment seemed to get away from him. Still, the flagrant 2 call was a bit of a surprise, but clearly the officials felt that the contact qualified as excessive in addition to simply unnecessary.

In the past, Nuggets coach Michael Malone has said that there are times Jokic can let his frustrations have a detrimental impact on his play. This counts as a perfect example of that.

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

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