Malone: I was 'shocked' refs ejected Jokic for hard foul
"I just didn't feel like it warranted a flagrant 2 ejection because he's making a play on the ball," Malone said, according to ESPN's Royce Young. "There's marginal contact to Cameron Payne's nose, I believe. So I was shocked. I'm still a little bit shocked that they called a flagrant 2 and ejected the MVP on such a play."
Jokic attempted to swat the ball out of Payne's hands but caught the Suns guard in the face. Payne stayed on the floor in discomfort for several minutes as the referees reviewed the play before eventually tossing the center with 3:52 left in the third quarter.
"I think it was something like, windup, malicious intent, some other mumbo jumbo," Malone said of the reasons provided by officials. "Obviously, you lose the MVP, it's going to make it even harder to stave off elimination."
Denver trailed Phoenix 83-75 at the time of Jokic's ejection. The Nuggets lost the contest 125-118 as the Suns pulled off the sweep to book a spot in the Western Conference finals.