Phoenix Suns closes out Nuggets with sweep as Nicola Jokic is ejected

Chris Paul and Devin Booker shine in Phoenix Suns' 125-118 win against Denver Nuggets in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.

Nikola Jokic grabs Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker during the NBA contest on Sunday. - AP

Chris Paul scored 37 points, Devin Booker had 34 points and 11 rebounds, and visiting Phoenix Suns beat Denver Nuggets 125-118 on Sunday night to sweep the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, the NBA MVP, was given a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected late in the third quarter. He finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Mikal Bridges scored 14 points, Deandre Ayton had 12 points and Jae Crowder had 10 rebounds and four blocks to go with nine points for the Suns, who reached the conference finals for the first time in 11 years.

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Will Barton had 25 points, Michael Porter Jr. scored 20, Monte Morris finished with 19, and Facu Campazzo 14 for Denver.

The Nuggets struggled in the third quarter of the first three games but came out strong after halftime on Sunday night. Porter hit a 3-pointer to help cut an eight-point deficit to 71-70 with 7:46 left.

Things turned soon after. Paul made a trio of mid-range jumpers to keep Phoenix in the lead, and after Ayton's alley-oop on a pass from Booker put the Suns ahead 83-75, tempers flared.

 

Jokic missed a 12-footer and then took a hard swipe at the ball after Cameron Payne got the rebound. Booker went chest-to-chest with Jokic as officials, players and coaches separated the two. Jokic was hit with the Flagrant 2 foul and was ejected with 3:52 left. He went over and shook Payne's hand as he left the court.

Phoenix quickly built a 15-point lead and led 96-83 heading into the fourth quarter.

Denver showed some fight after that, cutting the lead to 99-93 on a 3-pointer by Porter. Barton hit another from deep and JaVale McGee split a pair of free throws to make it 101-97. The Suns built the lead back up to eight with 5:15 left.

Paul converted a three-point play and had a steal and a layup to make it 114-103 and Phoenix closed it out. Phoenix led by as many as 10 in the first half, saw the Nuggets close within two, and led 63-55 halftime lead.

Bucks beats Nets to level series 1-1

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

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

Brooklyn’s immediate concern is the health of its 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.

- AP

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has apologised after the NBA's MVP was ejected for taking a swing at Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne in Sunday's Western Conference semi-final exit.

Jokic caught Payne across the face as the Serbian attempted to steal the ball with 3:52 remaining in the third quarter.

Suns guard Devin Booker confronted Jokic after the foul and the teams briefly scuffled before being separated.

Jokic was ejected following a review. He finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds as Denver lost Game Four 118-125 and were swept 4-0 in the best-of-seven series.

"I thought honestly they would not eject me," Jokic said.

"I wanted to change the rhythm of the game, I wanted to give us some energy, maybe change the whistle a little bit, so I wanted to make a hard foul.

"Did I hit him, did I not hit him? We don't know. So I say sorry if I did because I did not want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose."

Booker, who was given a technical foul for the confrontation, said Jokic's foul was an "emotional play".

"I don't think he meant harm by it," Booker said. "Just a frustration foul. It's tough, just defending my team mate, that was it.

"I know he's not a malicious player," he said of Jokic.

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