65574

Suns plaster Nuggets, again, to stake 2-0 series lead

Manafort

PHOENIX – The MVP chants boomed across the Valley while Nikola Jokic stood, arms crossed, as the noise engulfed him.

The chants had nothing to do with Tuesday’s news, and instead were a reflection of the pain Chris Paul and Devin Booker inflicted on the Nuggets here Wednesday night. In a raucous, rowdy arena, the Suns plastered the Nuggets, 123-98, to stake a 2-0 series lead in their second-round Western Conference series. It was the Nuggets’ largest loss of the season.

“I saw one team that wanted to be here and played with a purpose and urgency, and one team that did not want to be here,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That’s why we got our (butt) kicked.”

Game 3, where the Nuggets will be desperate to stem the Suns’ momentum, is Friday night in .

Perhaps a pre-game MVP ceremony for Jokic, the true MVP, on Friday will help ignite the Nuggets, but on Wednesday, Denver was helpless against Paul’s crafty crossovers and clutch 3-pointers. Paul finished his masterpiece with 17 points, 15 assists, 5 rebounds and 0 turnovers.

All of the Suns’ starters reached double-figures, standing in stark contrast to Denver’s abysmal attack.

After Jokic, who finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, the Nuggets’ next-highest scorers were Michael Porter Jr. and Paul Millsap, with 11 points each. Porter ended his miserable game 3-of-13 from the field and 2 for 9 from 3-point range.

Not even Will Barton’s return from a hamstring injury could aid the Nuggets’ anemic offense.

“Some things were definitely said,” Barton said of Denver’s postgame locker room. “Some things that needed to be said.”

Barton had 10 points and three assists but was limited to 16 minutes in his return.

“I just told our players, it’s embarrassing that a guy that hasn’t been able to play for seven weeks was out there leaving it all on the line,” Malone said. “I don’t think anybody else did.”

The Nuggets mustered just 40% shooting, which included 14-of-43 from outside. The Suns responded with 18-of-38 from 3-point range.

The Suns hit first in the form of back-to-back 3-pointers from Jae Crowder to open the third. Down 67-48, Nuggets enforcer Aaron Gordon had had enough. After calling out his team for playing “scared” in the aftermath of Game 1, Gordon stepped to Crowder as both grappled for position. For a moment, it was the fight the Nuggets had been searching for. Both players were hit with technical fouls in the first real show of animosity this series.

Playing in his first game since April 23rd, the Nuggets found another slight spark in Barton. He came in and drained a 3-pointer, but his frustration boiled over and he spiked the ball some 20-plus feet in the air following a Mikal Bridges dunk. As the arena roared, the Suns kept dumping more fuel on the fire. Their 34-point quarter gave the Suns a commanding 86-67 lead entering the fourth.

The silver lining of Monday’s Game 1 loss? Despite getting blown out, most of the Nuggets’ lapses were correctable.

“Nikola, as well as everybody else, has to have much more of an attack mentality and not just settling, facing up and shooting the jump shot that’s first available,” Malone said before Wednesday’s tipoff. “We have to put more pressure on their defense, we have to put more pressure on the rim and to put more pressure on the officials to maybe make some of those calls. You’re only going to get those calls when you play with an attack mindset.”

The Nuggets forgot to follow the plan.

In an ugly first half that yielded only two free throws and 36% shooting from the field, the Nuggets were not getting enough offensive movement. As a result, they trailed 52-42 going into the break.

Outside of Jokic, whose 15 first-half points helped the Nuggets stay close, only Barton found any consistent rhythm. In nine first-half minutes, Barton had a two-way impact. Minutes into his first shift, he and Jokic connected on a give-and-go dunk. Soon after, he buried one of Denver’s rare 3-pointers in the half. That they trailed by just 10 was a minor miracle considering they’d shot only 4-of-22 from 3-point range.

Porter didn’t connect on his first basket – a jumper – until 3:45 left in the first half. He went to halftime just 1 for 8 and 0-of-6 from 3-point range, with two points. Whether he was hampered by his back or not, Porter took several quick, low-percentage shots in an effort to get going.

 

 

dp news breaking?d=yIl2AUoC8zA - Suns plaster Nuggets, again, to stake 2-0 series lead dp news breaking?d=dnMXMwOfBR0 - Suns plaster Nuggets, again, to stake 2-0 series lead dp news breaking?d=7Q72WNTAKBA - Suns plaster Nuggets, again, to stake 2-0 series lead dp news breaking?i=qlOauEPWbW8:uWnd0n9LTDE:V sGLiPBpWU - Suns plaster Nuggets, again, to stake 2-0 series lead dp news breaking?d=qj6IDK7rITs - Suns plaster Nuggets, again, to stake 2-0 series lead

qlOauEPWbW8 - Suns plaster Nuggets, again, to stake 2-0 series lead

Latest Post