Jokic was tossed with 3:52 left in the third and his Nuggets trailing 83-76 after his hard right-hand windmill swipe sent the ball flying but also caught Cameron Payne in the face.
Jokic said he meant only to commit a hard foul on Payne to spark his team.
“I wanted to change the rhythm of the game, I wanted to give us some energy,” Jokic said. “I tried to make a hard foul. Did I hit him? I didn’t know. I say sorry if I did because I didn’t want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose.”
Booker took umbrage at the hard foul and got in the big man’s face before teammates and coaches pulled everyone apart.
“It was just an emotional play,” Booker said. “I don’t think he meant harm by it. It was just a frustration foul. It was tough, just defending my teammate. That was it.
“I saw him go up to Cam after and apologize. I’ve played against the Joker multiple times. I know he’s not a malicious player.”
Officials assessed a double technical on Jokic and Booker and after a review, ejected the MVP after upgrading his foul to a Flagrant 2. Jokic finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he watched the play while the officials reviewed the call “and I just assumed it would be a Flagrant 1 at the worst.”
“I didn’t feel like it warranted a Flagrant 2 ejection because he’s making a play on the ball,” Malone said. “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.”
Suns coach Monty Williams also was taken aback.
“I didn’t really think it was anything malicious,” Williams said. “In those moments you have to regulate your emotions. That’s what we’ve been talking about all season long.”
“At replay review, we saw wind up, impact and follow through, which lead to unnecessary and excessive contact above the shoulders and also into the face,” crew chief David Guthrie explained.
With their franchise-record seventh straight playoff victory, the Suns advanced to the conference championship for the first time since 2010 — the last time they even reached the playoffs.
After knocking out LeBron James and the defending champion Lakers in Round 1, the Suns quickly dispatched Denver and made Jokic the first MVP to get swept in a playoff series since Magic Johnson in 1989.
Will Barton led Denver, which trailed by 13 heading into the fourth quarter, with 25 points, Michael Porter Jr. added 20 and Monte Morris 19.