DENVER — A technical foul assessed to Nikola Jokic with 32 seconds remaining and the Wizards clinging to a two-point lead overshadowed a highly-contested 48 minutes where the Nuggets and Wizards went toe-to-toe.
"Their explanation was they felt Nikola Jokic walked on purpose into Scott Brooks," Michael Malone said after the game.
The play, which will be debated and analyzed over the next couple of days, came during a dead ball situation when the two teams were walking back to their respective huddles. Jokic brushed Brooks, who then reacted to the contact and the referees subsequently tagged Denver's big man with a technical foul.
After the play, Bradley Beal converted the technical free throw and then scored a layup on the Wizards' next possession to seal a Washington victory.
"I just watched it ten times, Nikola said he didn't do it intentionally," Malone continued. "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. The referees looked at it and they called a tech. I guess a learning lesson. We have to makes sure if we're walking off the court during timeouts we have to avoid coaches at all costs so we don't get into that situation again."
“Scott Brooks is a very good coach, he's a good guy," Malone contined. "Things happen in the heat of a moment that you can't always explain."
After the game, Jokic said he didn't bump Brooks intentionally.
"We scored and I looked at the referee because I thought it was a foul," Jokic said. "I think I tried to look at the scoreboard and I hit the coach."
"It was an awkward, weird situation," Brooks said. "I don’t think he did it on purpose."
Referee Derrick Stafford said after the game to a pool reporter that Jokic "intentionally walked into Scotty Brooks on his way to the bench."
The Wizards had a different opinion on the late technical foul than the Nuggets. Center Marcin Gortat, who battled with Jokic throughout the night thought Denver's big man disrespected the game.
"He’s not allowed to do that. Whatever it was, he didn’t see it or he (saw) it and he didn’t move away," Gortat said via The Washington Posts' Candace Buckner. "He can’t do that. He can’t do that,” Gortat said of Jokic. “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. This was (the) end of the game, and he just hurt his team pretty much doing that but it’s OK. It’s not our problem.”
"The Oscar goes to Mr. Jokic," Gortat continued. "Great game, he busted my ass. I got the win bottom line."
However, the real reason for Denver's loss was turnovers and especially live-ball turnovers. The Nuggets gave the ball away 24 times, seven of which from Jokic and five via Emmanuel Mudiay. The Wizards scored 29 points off Denver's turnovers.
"We've got to take care of the ball better," Gary Harris, who struggled and scored just two points on 1-6 shooting, said after the loss. "That's been a story since preseason."
Jokic, who had gone six quarters without scoring prior to tonight's tip-off, came out firing. The 22-year-old scored 12 points in the opening quarter on a crisp 5-5 shooting and finished with 29. Jokic also handed out five assists and grabbed nine rebounds.
"I wasn't worried about it like all you guys were," Malone said about Jokic's drought to the media after the game. "I knew that he's going to be fine. The kid's a hell of a player, and he came out, we ran the first play for him and he scored and everybody calmed down after that because I know he was fine. I was fine but hopefully, you guys were okay after that."
Rich Paul attends Nuggets game in wake of Eric Bledsoe rumors
NBA agent Rich Paul, who represents point guard Eric Bledsoe, attended tonight's Nuggets-Wizards game. Paul was seen pregame mingling on the floor with both Nuggets and Wizards personnel.
While Paul is Bledsoe's agent, he also represents Nuggets' power forward Trey Lyles and Wizards' point guard John Wall.
Earlier Monday morning, Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough sent Bledsoe home from the Suns' facility after meeting with the point guard in response to a tweet he sent Sunday night that read "I don't wanna be here."
McDonough said he spoke to Bledsoe, who said the tweet was sent in reference to being at a hair salon. The Suns' GM refuted Bledsoe's statement and said he "didn't believe that to be true."