After yet another stellar game from the Suns’ starters, as well as their bench, there is no reason to think that this Phoenix team can lose a series to anyone left in the playoffs, and it all starts with their production and leadership on offense…
The Phoenix Suns clobbered the Denver Nuggets once again last night by a score of 123-98, shooting 47.9% from the field and 47.4% from the three-point line, which gave them the 2-0 lead in the series before they have to head to the Ball Arena in Denver for games three and four.
Last night was much like the Suns’ Game One victory where they started off playing steady, consistent basketball at the pace that their star PG Chris Paul was setting every time he carried the ball back upcourt, that turned into more and more good looks and fast breaks that would help them build upwards to a 31-point lead in Game Two.
This consistency across the starting five helped spread the Nuggets defense early and allowed every single Suns starter to score at least two points within the first six minutes of the game, and all would go on to score double-digits by the end of regulation, with Booker leading them all with 18 points to go along with his ten rebounds.
This type of persistent beating is not common for the 2021 NBA MVP Nikola Jokić and his Denver Nuggets, in fact, this Game Two loss was actually the worst loss of the entire season for them by a scoring standpoint (25 points), which does not bode well for them if they can travel back to Phoenix for game(s) five and/or seven.
This type of beating should not be startling news to anybody who has been watching the Suns as of late though, not only because it’s obvious they can score at will, but because they are the only playoff team remaining whose opponents are unable to average 100 points during these first two series (98.5 ppg to be exact).
The scariest part about this Suns team is their ability to go on runs whenever they want, like their 10-0 run to start the second half of Game Two, or their 42-14 run to flip Game One in the third quarter. All this means for opponents is that no lead is safe and no deficit can ever be too big.
While many Denver fans will chalk this loss up to the poor shooting from Michael Porter Jr. (11/6/1 on 3-13 FG shooting & 2-9 from three-point range) or the number of penalty calls that they were receiving (21) compared to Phoenix (18), but one thing is for certain: they are not going to win the series if they cannot stop the Suns from getting hot or stopping them from getting such open looks.
The first spot to attack if Denver has any chance of beating the Suns has to be CP3, who has 38 points, 26 assists, and only one turnover in this series so far. If the Nuggets can break up more passes from Paul to Crowder or Paul to Booker, and if they can disrupt Paul when he dances in and around the paint for a pull-up jumper, then they have an inkling of a chance to get a victory very soon.
If they can’t stop Paul from doing what he has been doing so well these past five games (all of which have been Phoenix victories), then they need to start finding ways to get Deandre Ayton or Booker into foul trouble, something they did well early in Game Two. However, they couldn’t continue throughout the rest of the match. If they can do that then, the Suns rely much more heavily on outside shooting from Crowder or Mikal Bridges.
Also, Jokić has the ability to take over games when he has lethal shooters sitting behind him–not to mention he is also a decent three-point shooter himself (39.1% this postseason)–but the offense that seemed so commanding and assertive throughout the season has devolved into pick-up basketball where nobody wants to drive inside and would rather throw up a contested three-pointer (they were 14-43 from three during game two) than wait for a shot or an open pass.
The fans, who have been waiting 11 years for these types of moments, made their presence known throughout the game and afterward were spotted screaming “Suns in four!” after the game (below).
The Suns are hitting their stride, outscoring opponents by +85 over their past four games (two vs. LA Lakers, two vs. Nuggets), and with the ecstatic atmosphere that Phoenix has shown at home these past few weeks it’s hard to pick any other team with a more vibrant, dominating home-court advantage to help them throughout the rest of the playoffs.
And, whether or not CP3 is on the court leading the brigade, the Suns can take off at any moment which means that these next two games in Denver have to be structurally sound defensively for the Nuggets if they even want to sniff a chance at returning to the Western Conference Finals.