Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has apologized after the NBA's MVP was ejected for taking a swing at Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne in Sunday's Western Conference semi-final exit.
Jokic caught Payne across the face as the Serbian attempted to steal the ball with 3:52 remaining in the third quarter.
Suns guard Devin Booker confronted Jokic after the foul and the teams briefly scuffled before being separated.
Jokic was ejected following a review. He finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds as Denver lost Game Four 118-125 and were swept 4-0 in the best-of-seven series.
"I thought honestly they would not eject me," Jokic said.
"I wanted to change the rhythm of the game, I wanted to give us some energy, maybe change the whistle a little bit, so I wanted to make a hard foul.
"Did I hit him, did I not hit him? We don't know. So I say sorry if I did because I did not want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose."
Booker, who was given a technical foul for the confrontation, said Jokic's foul was an "emotional play".
"I don't think he meant harm by it," Booker said. "Just a frustration foul. It's tough, just defending my team mate, that was it.
"I know he's not a malicious player," he said of Jokic.
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford )