Nikola Jokic might have won the league MVP award, but the versatile big man and the Denver Nuggets have been embarrassed in the first two games of their Western Conference semifinals series.
Now, in a 2-0 hole heading into Friday’s night’s pivotal Game 3 matchup in the Mile High City, Denver desperately needs a win to salvage any hopes of upsetting Chris Paul and the streaking Phoenix Suns.
Phoenix cruised to an emphatic win in Game 2 on Wednesday to cover the spread as a six-point home favorite, as predicted. Now, the young Suns will look to extend their winning ways, this time as a slight road dog. The NBA Odds for this matchup are live in the BetUS Online Sportsbook right now.
Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets
When: Friday, 10 p.m. ET
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, CO
Radio: KKSE 92.5FMKMVP 98.7 / S: KSUN
Suns Look to Keep It Simple
Phoenix absolutely crushed Denver on Wednesday, winning 123-98 as all five starters put up double figures in scoring for the second straight game and Torrey Craig added 10 points off the bench.
Orchestrating all the action was future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul, who scored 17 points and dished out 15 assists with no turnovers.
“I’m telling you,” Paul said, “I really haven’t been on a team quite like this one.”
Devin Booker scored a team-high 18 points and Mikal Bridges added 16 points. Blossoming center Deandre Ayton contributed a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Jae Crowder added 11 points on 3 of 4 shooting from beyond the arc.
“Everybody shoots,” Paul said. “You don’t have to try to find a certain guy. Everybody (on our team) are knock-down shooters.”
Now, the Suns head into Game 3 looking to keep it simple by sharing the wealth. In eight playoff games, six players are averaging double figures in scoring. Ayton is shooting an insane 75.3 percent from the field and Booker is shooting 49.7 percent from the floor and a blistering 41.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Simply Put, Jokic Needs Help
The Nuggets have been outplayed badly since the start of the second half of Game 1 and never came close to challenging the Suns in Game 2 on Wednesday night. The newly minted league MVP scored a team-high 24 points to go along with 13 rebounds and six assists. Unfortunately, the do-it-all Serbian saw only three teammates reach double figures in scoring. Banged-up forward Michael Porter Jr. and veteran backup Paul Millsap both scored 11 points and backup guard Will Barton added 10 points off the bench.
“I saw one team that wanted to be here, and played with a purpose and urgency, and one team that did not want to be here, and played with no urgency,” Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said. “That’s why we got our (butt) kicked.”
If the Nuggets want to get past the deep and hungry Suns, they’ll have to find a few players to give Jokic the help he so clearly needs.
Stick a Fork in Nuggets, They’re Done
The Suns have won five straight while going 5-0 against the spread along the way. Phoenix is 9-3 ATS in its last 12 games as a road underdog. The Suns are 3-1-1 ATS in their last five road games and a bankroll-boosting 13-6 ATS in their last 19 games as an underdog.
The Nuggets have gone 5-1 ATS in their last six conference semifinals games and 4-1 ATS in their last five games as a home favorite, but 0-4 ATS in their last four games against a team with a winning percentage above .600.
More importantly, Denver just doesn’t have an answer for Paul – or Booker for that matter. Ayton has played Jokic to a virtual standstill and the Suns are simply deeper and better at every position outside of center.
Paul has 53 assists and four turnovers in Phoenix’s five games and has generally been the best player on the floor for either team. The Suns are locked in and focused despite their relative youth and have the look of a team not only capable of winning this series, but that will challenge to win it all this season. I like Phoenix as a slight road dog to win outright.
Pick: Phoenix Suns+1½