The Denver Nuggets started a five game road trip with a double dip in Phoenix against the Suns. The first of two contests in Arizona did not start well for Denver with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton leading an offensive barrage. However, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were up to the task and responded in the second half to force overtime and ultimately secure the 130-126 win
The Suns were aggressive early on, particularly Ayton, and opened with a 7-2 run. The Nuggets offense was flat to start the game as well, Jokic got a couple buckets but there wasn’t much else until Murray threw down a huge slam to pull the Nuggets within three. Ayton continued to score. He was the recipient of multiple nice feeds from Chris Paul. Denver struggled to keep up, even though Jokic was finally getting some help in the form of Will Barton. The Suns bench picked up where the starters left off, along with Booker who was tearing through Denver’s defense. If not for a classic Monte Morris finish to the quarter, the Nuggets would have been down double digits. Instead, they trailed 34-25 after one.
JAMAL MURRAY IS CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF pic.twitter.com/kJg1HCJIXu— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 23, 2021
Denver’s bench, including Michael Porter Jr, made a strong run to start the second to get within four and force a Phoenix timeout. They responded with a pair of threes and got the lead back up to ten. MPJ kept Denver afloat while Jokic and Murray got a rest, they checked in halfway through the quarter with the Nuggets trailing by eight. Denver immediately rattled off an 8-0 run to get it as close as two but they couldn’t contain the three point line and fell behind again. The defense was abysmal to say the least as the quarter came down the stretch. The Suns kept firing away from three and before you know it the half was over and Denver trailed by fourteen.
Denver appeared to finally find their defensive rhythm to start the second half. They kept Phoenix to just two points in the first three minutes of the game. That let the Nuggets go on a 9-0 run to get within five before Bridges drained another three. Denver kept the pressure on, and got within three but every time they had a chance to capture the lead Phoenix hit another three. The Nuggets kept within striking range when their bench started to check in but the Suns still had an answer for every run Denver made. A Booker and-one put them back up by nine when Michael Malone took a timeout with just over two minutes to go. Murray led a run to close out the quarter to save Denver’s chances and get them within four points after three quarters of play.
haha people think Nikola isn't the best passer in the league pic.twitter.com/ooQfVz7pVi— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) January 23, 2021
The Nuggets defense was up to the task to open the fourth while their offense sputtered a bit. Morris, who was having an excellent night, led the next Nuggets run and this time they were finally able to take the lead. Phoenix pushed back behind Booker who got into a battle with Joker. He kept taking the ball to the basket and getting layups which offset Jokic dominating in the paint on the other end. The momentum shifted back to Denver’s way when Malone successfully challenged to get an offensive foul on Booker that was originally called an and-one for Phoenix. Denver leaned on their stars down the stretch and tied it up with just over three to go. CP3 came alive just like he did in the closing minutes of the first meeting between these two teams. After a Jokic scoop shot tied it up with a minute to go Paul turned it over to give the Nuggets a two for one opportunity with forty-one seconds left on the clock. Joker got a wide open three on the first opportunity but missed it and Murray couldn’t sink a game winner on the second try either sending the game to overtime.
Denver quickly got the lead to start overtime behind Harris and Jokic but Booker and Ayton continued to score to keep it a one possession game. Phoenix took back the lead after Cameron Johnson hustled up an offensive rebound and got Ayton an and-one but paid a heavy price for it because Booker was hurt on the play and had to come out of the game. The Nuggets responded to get a one point lead with another two for one opportunity. This time Murray buried his patented turn around fade on the Nuggets first opportunity and Barton hit two free throws on the second to stretch the lead to five. Paul knocked down a three to keep the Suns alive for one more possession but ultimately the good guys prevailed. Nuggets win 130-126.