DENVER (AP) – The Phoenix Suns reached the Western Conference final for the first time in 11 years on Sunday with a 125-118 victory over the Denver Nuggets, which completed a four-game sweep and included the expulsion of Player More Valuable, Nikola Jokic.
Chris Paul scored 37 points and Devin Booker added 34 points in an extremely physical game that was marred by Jokic’s sending off.
Jokic was thrown out of the game with 3:52 minutes remaining in the third quarter and the Nuggets trailing 83-76 after he tried to snatch the ball from Cameron Payne, hitting him in the face in the attempt.
The center said he just wanted to foul Payne.
“I didn’t want to hurt him or hit him on the head on purpose,” he said.
Booker was angered by the harsh foul and faced the big man before their teammates and coaches separated them.
Officials double-faulted Jokic and Booker and sent off the MVP. Jokic finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes.
The Nuggets and their fans were frustrated that minor fouls were being called at them, and yet Jokic was not up to the mark of an MVP.
With their seventh straight postseason win, a franchise record, the Suns advanced to the conference championship for the first time since 2010, the last time they made the playoffs.
After knocking out LeBron James and defending champion Lakers in the first round, the Suns quickly dispatched Denver and made Jokic the first MVP to be swept in a postseason series since succeeding Magic. Johnson in 1989.