Coming into the round two series between the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets, many believed that the Suns would be able to pull out an upset and win the series despite being the 4th seed and the Nuggets being the top seed in the Western Conference.
However, the Nuggets did an incredible job of defending their home court, winning both games and two by double digits. With the next two games being in Phoenix, it is essential that the Suns win both games three and four if they hope to have any chance to win the series.
With all of the talent they have on their roster, it is more than possible that they could make a comeback, however, some major changes will have to be made.
In game one, the Nuggets took a very commanding 125-107 win to set the tone of the series. Although the Suns’ starters had very solid performances, they got little production from their bench unit. This is a trend that would also follow them into game two. With such a large percentage of the team’s cap being eaten up by their big four of Chirs Paul, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and DeAndre Ayton, not much can be expected from the reserves. However, in game one, the eight bench players competed for a measly 24 points.
Durant would have an incredible game leading the Suns in both points and rebounds with 29 and fourteen respectively. Booker would lead the team in assists with eight. This was a subpar game from Chris Paul who finished shooting five for eleven from the field with eleven points, five assists, and zero rebounds.
On the flip side, Jamal Murray had an incredible game on the offensive end, leading Denver in both points and assists with a 34-point and nine-assist performance. All five of the Nuggets scorers would finish the game in double digits. Nikola Jokic would go on to lead Denver in both rebounds with a very impressive nineteen.
In game two, the Suns had a horrendous shooting night as a team. They finished the game shooting 40% from the field and an abysmal 19.4% from three. With a team that is not elite on the defensive end, this is something that can not happen, especially when trying to claw back from a series deficit. Durant had an especially tough night. Despite scoring 24 points, he shot ten for twenty-seven from the field and two for twelve from three.
Devin Booker would lead the scoring effort with 35 points, and tied with Chris Paul in most assists for the Suns with six. Both Ayton and Durant would share the lead in rebounds with eight. In this matchup, the Suns only received a four-point boost from their bench players.
While Denver also did not crack 100 points, they did more than enough to win the game. Jokic had an incredible game in terms of scoring and on the boards. He led the Nuggets in both points and rebounds with 39 and sixteen respectively. Murray once again led the team in assists with eight. Denver ran a very tight rotation in this game, only playing three players off of the bench. Despite this, they were able to outscore the six bench players the Suns gave playing time by nine points.
The biggest issue for the Suns thus far through the series is their lack of depth. If they are not able to get some production from their bench players, they have little chance of being able to dig back from a 2-0 series deficit. With little to no room for error, Phoenix can not afford to have another terrible shooting night again.
Unless they are able to win the next two or three games straight, there is little chance that the Suns will be able to claw back against the top seed in the West. Deandre Ayton will have to focus all of his efforts on slowing down Jokic and keeping him off of the boards. This is much easier said than done as The Joker was an MVP-caliber player this year. Even when he is not putting up big scoring numbers like in game two, he still has a major effect on the game when he dominates the boards and is able to distribute the ball.
Along with this, Phoenix must find a way to slow down Murray. At his best, he is one of the top scorers in the league, however, Denver is a two-man show. A player who has not seen minutes yet through this series that could aid in slowing him down is T.J. Warren. If Murray has another big scoring night, it could be more than enough to win the Nuggets a game, and Phoenix can not afford to take another loss until game five at the soonest.
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