After Nuggets guard Jamal Murray cut the Wizards’ lead to 104-102 with 32 seconds remaining, Washington called a timeout and Brooks walked onto the court as his players took the bench. Jokic sauntered back to Denver’s huddle, but not before the Serb’s elbow caught the coach’s shoulder:
— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) October 24, 2017
Brooks took offense, rushing to the referees, and they hit Jokic with a technical foul. Wizards guard Bradley Beal made the ensuing free throw and added a driving layup 20 seconds later, pushing the lead to 107-102. Nuggets forward Paul Millsap responded with a layup with eight seconds to play, and Murray quickly fouled Washington star John Wall, whose free throws made the score final, 109-104.
Afterward, officiating crew chief told a pool reporter of referee Derrick Stafford’s decision to issue the technical four on Jokic: “He intentionally walked into Scotty Brooks on his way to the bench.”
A replay didn’t make clear whether the bump was intentional or not, but several Wizards seemed to think Jokic collided with Brooks on purpose. “That’s something you don’t do to a coach,” Wall told The Washington Post. Added teammate Marcin Gortat: “This is lack of respect for the game. Lack of respect for our coach, lack of respect for the older person. … He’s just not allowed to do that, bottom line.”
Whether Brooks believed the bump was purposeful in the moment or was just trying to squeeze a free throw out of it, he downplayed Jokic’s intent in the aftermath. “It was an awkward, weird situation,” he told reporters, via The Washington Post. “I don’t think he did it on purpose but it happened. I moved on and the referee had to do what he had to do and move on. But I never had that happen before.”
In the grand scheme, the tech may not have impacted the outcome, since it never meant the difference between a one- or two-possession game, but it certainly disrupted Denver’s momentum.
For his part, Jokic also disagreed with the ref’s assessment that the bump was intentional:
“I’m sorry because I put my team in a bad position, so that’s the only thing that I can say,” he told reporters. Jokic suggested his focus was trained on the scoreboard and the referee, because he felt someone on the Wizards had pushed him in the back as Murray was scoring on the previous play. “I think he pushed me,” he added, “but I mean, I don’t care. Really, guys, we lost the game, and that’s it.”
“I just watched it 10 times, and Nikola said he didn’t do it intentionally,” added Nuggets coach Mike Malone. “Nikola is walking off the court, Scott Brooks is walking on the court, there’s contact made. It was embellished a little bit, to be honest, I think, but the referees looked at it and they called a tech, so I guess it’s a learning lesson. We have to make sure as we’re walking off the court during timeouts that we avoid coaches at all costs, so we don’t get into that situation again.”
Jokic scored 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range, adding nine rebounds and five assists opposite Gortat. Malone would not point to the technical as the reason for the loss. Instead, he cited his team’s 23 turnovers, leading to 28 Wizards points. Jokic committed seven of them.
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