Suns Booker and the host Jokic Denver to start Western Conference
Rejuvenated Paul leads Suns over Nuggets 122-105 in Game 1 Mon, 07 Jun 2021 20:00:00 -0700-The Denver Nuggets head to Phoenix Monday to begin an NBA Western Conference semifinal series with the Suns after the teams played three close contests …
Denver Nuggets (47-25, third in the Western Conference during the regular season) vs. Phoenix Suns (51-21, second in the Western Conference during the regular season)
Phoenix; Monday, 10 p.m. EDT
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK LINE: Suns -4; over/under is 219.5
WESTERN CONFERENCE SECOND ROUND: Suns host first series matchup
BOTTOM LINE: The Phoenix Suns host the Denver Nuggets to start the Western Conference second round. Denver went 2-1 against Phoenix during the regular season. The Nuggets won the last regular season matchup 120-112 on Jan. 23. Nikola Jokic scored 29 points to lead Denver to the win and Jae Crowder recorded 21 points in defeat for Phoenix.
The Suns are 30-12 in Western Conference games. Phoenix averages 42.9 rebounds per game and is 24-7 when outrebounding opponents.
The Nuggets are 26-16 against Western Conference opponents. Denver is 26-13 when it has fewer turnovers than its opponents and averages 13.5 turnovers per game.
TOP PERFORMERS: Chris Paul is shooting 49.9% and averaging 16.4 points. Devin Booker is averaging 25.7 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 42.1% over the last 10 games for Phoenix.
Jokic leads the Nuggets averaging 26.4 points and grabbing 10.8 rebounds. Michael Porter Jr. is averaging 16.1 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 43.5% over the last 10 games for Denver.
DURING THE PLAYOFFS: Suns: Averaging 104 points, 41.8 rebounds, 24.3 assists, 7.2 steals and 5.0 blocks per game while shooting 45.8% from the field. Their opponents have averaged 97.5 points on 41.4% shooting.
Nuggets: Averaging 120.8 points, 44.3 rebounds, 26.0 assists, 6.2 steals and 4.5 blocks per game while shooting 47.2% from the field. Their opponents have averaged 119.5 points on 47.5% shooting.
INJURIES: Suns: Ty-Shon Alexander: day to day (non-covid illness), Abdel Nader: out (knee).
Nuggets: PJ Dozier: out (adductor), Jamal Murray: out for season (knee), Will Barton: out (hamstring).
The Associated Press created this story using technology provided by Data Skrive and data from Sportradar
Booker and the Suns host Jokic, Denver to start Western Conference … Mon, 07 Jun 2021 20:00:00 -0700-PHOENIX (AP) — Chris Paul and his rejuvenated right shoulder scored 21 points and…
PHOENIX (AP) — In the opening minutes of Monday night's game, Chris Paul was bumped on his ailing right shoulder and grimaced for a second. His movements were a little tentative, his shots didn't look quite right.
Then — seemingly almost out of nowhere — the “Point God” was back.
One mid-range jumper fell and then another. A short floater found the net and then a 3-pointer splashed home as the crowd roared. The 11-time All-Star looked like his usual self, the rest of the Suns followed suit and Phoenix rallied for a 122-105 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
“It was fun to get out there and be involved,” Paul said. “That last series – that was tough – but I’m glad to be back helping the team.”
Paul and his rejuvenated right shoulder finished with 21 points and 11 assists while Mikal Bridges added a team-high 23 points on 8 of 12 shooting, including 4 of 8 from behind the arc.
The Suns trailed for most of the first half and 70-60 early in the third quarter but rallied to take the lead by late in the third. Devin Booker made a 3-pointer and Bridges added a driving layup for a 79-72 advantage.
They pushed the lead to 88-79 going into the fourth. Paul — who played with the hurt shooting shoulder through most of the first round matchup against the Lakers — made back-to-back mid-range jumpers to put the Suns up 94-79 with 10:25 left.
“We felt that energy,” Booker said. “We felt the passion. He just made plays.”
The flurry came much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 16,319, who anxiously watched the point guard's every move.
“This crowd is crazy,” Paul said. “There’s nothing like it. This is why we fought so hard during the regular season to get home court advantage.”
Paul's buckets were the final exclamation points on a 34-9 run that helped Phoenix take control. Deandre Ayton finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds while Booker added 21 points.
It was surprising that the game didn't come down to the final minutes. The three regular-season meetings were all extremely close: One was decided by three points in regulation, another was settled in overtime and the other went to double overtime.
Game 2 is on Wednesday in Phoenix.
“We did some good things but obviously we were unable to sustain it for 48 minutes,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We all collectively have to better, a lot more physical, a lot more disciplined if we want to win in Game 2.”
Nuggets forward Jamychal Green was disappointed that the Suns were more physical during the decisive minutes.
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 22 points but went cold while the Suns made their second half run. Aaron Gordon added 18 points while Michael Porter Jr. had 15.
Jokic took some of the blame, saying he should have been more aggressive during the second half. The MVP candidate shot 10 of 23 from the field.
“When things aren’t going our way, we need to be more decisive,” Jokic said. “We need to know what we are doing as a group.”
The big man matchup between Jokic and Ayton delivered in the first quarter as the two teams fought to a 28-all tie. Ayton threw down a thunderous dunk over Porter while Jokic used his strength and positioning to make five of six shots.
Denver led 58-57 at halftime. Jokic had 15 points and six rebounds before the break while Booker and Ayton countered with 11 points each for the Suns.
COLD SHOULDER TURNS HOT
Paul became just the third player 36 years or older who had at least 20 points and 10 assists in a playoff game, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Steve Nash and John Stockton were the others.
Paul averaged just 9.2 points per game against the Lakers in the first round, partly because of the sore shoulder he hurt in the first half of Game 1.
NO SOUR GRAPES
Suns coach Monty Williams finished second in the NBA Coach of the Year, just behind the New York Knicks' Tom Thibodeau.
It was the closest balloting since this version of voting was introduced 19 years ago. Thibodeau got 43 first-place votes and finished with 351 total points, while Phoenix’s Monty Williams actually got more first-place votes — he got 45 — but finished with 340 points.
Williams wasn't upset to finish second, especially since the winner was Thibodeau. The two worked together when they were assistant coaches with USA basketball.
“It's pretty cool to watch someone I've worked with win an award like that,” Williams said.
FLAVORTOWN IN PHOENIX
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri was among the fans sitting courtside at Phoenix Suns Arena. The band Jimmy Eat World, which was formed in Mesa, Arizona, in the 1990s and had a string of hits in the 2000s, performed at halftime.
Fittingly, they played one of their biggest songs “The Middle.”
Nuggets: Guards Jamal Murray (left ACL surgery), Will Barton (right hamstring strain) and P.J. Dozier (right adductor strain) didn't play. Denver hopes that Barton and Dozier could be available at some point during the series.
Suns: Forward Abdel Nader (right knee surgery) didn't play. … Suns forward Torrey Craig had a good performance against his former team, scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds in 15 minutes. … The Suns shot 64% from the field in the second half, including 46% from 3-point range.
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– June 8, 2021
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