Sometimes you just have to tip your cap, and that is exactly what Nikola Jokic did after the Phoenix Suns completed their second-round sweep of the Denver Nuggets with a 125-118 victory in Sunday's Game 4.
"They beat us, they whupped our ass," he told reporters. "The whole team needs to walk out with their heads up. Sometimes the other team is better, and you have to accept it."
Jokic was largely impressive throughout the series, but he didn't help his team's cause when he was ejected in the third quarter Sunday for hitting Cameron Payne in the face as he went for the ball. Officials deemed it a flagrant-2 foul upon review and threw him out of the game.
The league MVP finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four assists and was not on the floor for crunch time as Chris Paul (37 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals) and Devin Booker (34 points, 11 rebounds and four assists) put the Suns on their back.
To Denver's credit, it cut into Phoenix's double-digit lead in the fourth quarter even without Jokic, but the comeback effort ran out of steam as Paul made a number of clutch plays in the final minutes.
It is difficult to argue with Jokic's assessment.
The Suns won each of the first three games by double digits and were never truly challenged by the Nuggets. They have now won seven games in a row since they fell behind 2-1 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round and look every bit the part of championship contender with Paul playing brilliant basketball.
Denver was always going to be fighting an uphill battle in this series without Jamal Murray, and it didn't have the firepower to keep up with a deep Phoenix attack.
Even when Jokic was unstoppable, such as when he posted a triple-double of 32 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 3, the Suns had more offensive options to counter his production.
Perhaps the series would have been different with a healthy Murray, but, as Jokic said, Phoenix was the better team throughout the four games.