The Phoenix Suns find themselves down 2-3 to the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs. In game two, point guard Chirs Paul suffered a groin injury that has kept him sidelined, and the Suns down a man on a team that does not have a lot of depth. Along with this center, Deandre Ayton is listed as questionable for game six due to rib contusions. With the Suns having an extremely thin bench, this has left many wondering if the Suns have what it takes to find a way to come back and make an appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
In game five, the Suns had a very poor showing in a game that they needed to win. If they were able to steal game five, they would have been returning to their home floor with a chance to clinch the series. However, they were defeated by a final score of 118-102 in a game that seemed out of reach for the Suns from the start.
Despite Kevin Durant clocking in 42 minutes, he still did not have nearly as big of an impact on the game needed for Phoenix to come out with a win. While he finished with a very respectable 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists, he did not do this efficiently despite being one of the best shooters of this generation. He shot 10/24 from the field and 0/3 from three in his 26-point effort. His co-star Devin Booker also had a steep falloff in this game when compared to his performances in games three and four. In the previous two games, Booker was averaging 41.5 points while shooting 79% from the field in the two games that the Suns were able to pull out. He still had a strong performance, finishing the game with 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists while shooting 8/19 from the field and 4/7 from three.
Deandre Ayton struggled once again in limiting Nikola Jokic’s impact on the game. The Joker finished the game with a near 30-point triple-double scoring 29 points, pulling in 13 rebounds, and dishing out 12 assists. Along with this, the Suns had yet another poor scoring effort from their bench unit. They allowed Nuggets bench player Bruce Brown to finish the game with 25 points while Phoenix’s entire bench unit scored a combined 26 points.
If Ayton does not find a way to slow down Jokic, there is little chance the Suns have of winning this series. He has been mostly a nonfactor in Phoenix’s offense, and he is able to put all of his energy into defense and rebounding. However, this is very unlikely to happen. The more likely path for the Suns to win is for their bench unit to step on in terms of scoring. They can not continue to let a single opposing bench player match or outscore their entire bench unit.
If Kevin Durant and Devin Booker are unable to once again efficiently score nearly thirty to forty points each, the Suns are likely out of luck. This is an enormous task and will require the duo to play nearly perfect games on the offensive end, however, it is the only way they will be able to pull out this series.
Ayton has proved throughout this entire series that he is not capable of even slowing down Jokic, and there is a good chance that both he and Paul are traded over the offseason to either bring in a third star player or bulk up the bench. Both of which have been made clear as apparent needs for the Suns.
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