Image licensed from USA Today Sports
The Phoenix Suns opened a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series with a dominating 123-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Veteran point guard Chris Paul handed out 15 assists and scored 17 points while backcourt mate Devin Booker scored a team-high 18 points. The Phoenix defense continues to control games, as the Suns have held their opponents to 100 or fewer points in five of eight postseason games.
The high-scoring Nuggets, who ended the regular season eighth in the NBA in points scored with an average of 115.1 points per game and are scoring an average 116.0 points per game during the postseason, must pick up there output or will be swept out of the playoffs by Phoenix. Denver’s head coach said his players played with no urgency and quit in Wednesday’s loss. Nikola Jokic, who earlier this week was named the NBA MVP, led Denver with 24 points and 13 rebounds. The Denver defense is giving up too much. The nuggets have allowed 115 points or more in 7 of 8 postseason games
Chris Paul’s Health is Key to Suns Success
The Phoenix Suns have lost only two of eight postseason games thus far and in each of those two games veteran point guard Chris Paul was ineffective due to a shoulder injury. However, it appears that Paul is no longer bothered by his shoulder evidenced by his 15 assists and 17 points in Wednesday’s victory over the Nuggets. During the postseason, Paul is averaging a team-high 9.0 assists per game, while the leading scorer for the Suns in the postseason is Devin Booker with an average of 27.1 points per game. In a very balanced scoring attack 6 players are averaging double-figures in scoring for Phoenix.
The Suns are averaging 43.4 rebounds per game with 35.5 off the defensive boards and 7.9 per game off the offensive glass. Deandre Ayton is the king of the boards for Phoenix with an average of 10.5 rebounds per game. The Phoenix stifling defense is averaging 6.8 steals and 4.8 blocked shots per game with Mikal Bridges the steals leader with an average of 1.4 per game and Jae Crowder the swat master with an average of 0.9 blocked shots per contest.
Injury Report: Abdel Nader is out indefinitely
Nuggets Need to Shot Better
If Denver hopes to move on to the finals at the Western Conference, the Nuggets must improve at both ends of the court. Denver has scored only 105 and 98 points in the first two games of this series and overall during the postseason, is averaging 116.0 points per game. Nikola Jokic is the leading scorer for Denver averaging 30.5 points per game and Michael Porter Jr is the second leading scorer with an average of 17.4 points per game. Monte Morris is the dish leader with a team-best 5.5 assists per game. Part of Denver’s problems through the first two games of the series is shooting as Denver is hitting only 46.2% of its shots overall.
On the boards, Denver averages 44.1 rebounds per game with 32.6 on the defensive end and 11.5 per game off the offensive glass. Jokic Is leading Denver in rebounding with an average of 10.6 boards per contest. The Nuggets defense is averaging 6.4 steals and 4.6 blocked shots per game with Facundo Campazzo the steals leader at 1.6 per game and JaVale McGee the swat meister for the Nuggets with an average of 1.3 blocked shots per game.
Injury Report: RJ Dozier and Jamal Murray are out
- Denver is 4-1 ATS in the last five
- The Nuggets are 4-1 ATS in the last five at home as the favorite
- Phoenix is 1-4-1 ATS in the last 6 on the road against a team with a home winning percentage higher than .600