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Recap: Nuggets blown out for third straight game in 116-102 loss to Suns

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Nikola Jokic has a historic night, but it’s far from enough against these Suns

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

If you thought the Nuggets would magically find a way to defend the Suns or that if Nikola Jokic’s MVP trophy presentation would somehow light a spark in the team, you were gravely mistaken. Bolstered by 71% shooting in the first quarter, the Suns led wire to wire on their way to another easy victory to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

Devin Booker and Chris Paul were elite tonight. Booker led Phoenix with 28 points while the Chris Paul summer camp clinic continued with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists. Phoenix shot 53.1% from the field and 46.2% from three and there was just nothing the Nuggets could do about it.

Nikola Jokic put up an MVP performance with an incredible 32-20-10 stat line but for the third straight game got little help from the rest of the starters. The rest of Denver’s starting unit combined for just 30 points while everyone from Phoenix’s starting 5 all hit double figures.

Every time Denver chipped away, the Suns had an answer. Phoenix built a 13 point lead in the first half that the Nuggets’ bench whittled down to four, but Torrey Craig went on a 5-0 run on his own to extend the lead again. Jokic looked somewhat passive until the last few minutes of the second quarter when he turned on the jets and began drawing fouls and working the post. His efforts resulted in an impressive 15 point, 12 rebound, 6 assist half and enabled the Nuggets to go into the break down only four.

The Nuggets came out flat in the third quarter (drink) while the Suns onslaught continued. Jokic gave everything he had, but the Nuggets just couldn’t get any stops on the other end. CP3 danced his way to midrange after midrange jumper, and it seemed like Phoenix hit on just about every three-pointer they took. Denver was outscored 31-21 in the frame and closed on a 7-2 run to lead 90-76 heading in the fourth.

By then, it was too late. Phoenix maintained all the momentum and never budged an inch. Now, Denver sits in an 0-3 deficit and the season on the brink. Game 4 is Sunday.

Takeaways

  • To win against Phoenix, Denver needs a complete game from at least four players in addition to Jokic. For the third time this series that didn’t happen. Monte Morris returned to form with his 21 points and Will Barton chipped in 14 of his own, but outside of them the role players were poor. Aaron Gordon was abysmal, scoring just four points on 2 for 10 shooting (though he had some good defense on Booker occasionally) and some very loud turnovers. Campazzo hit some threes but was largely played off the floor by CP3. Millsap and Green were bad. Rivers, too. Just a bad night all around.
  • Michael Porter Jr. continued his disappearing act, scoring 15 points while being hunted on defense again. MPJ’s talent is still there, but it sure seems like he’s taken a step backwards in this series after a promising regular season. Hurt back or not, he has not been good.
  • Take your pick from the thesaurus on how you want to describe Denver’s defense. The Suns got pretty much any shot they wanted. They generated wide open threes, Chris Paul elbow jumpers and had a red carpet to the rim all night long in the half-court and transition. The Nuggets didn’t stand a chance.
  • No team has ever come back from down 3-0 to win... if there’s any team that can do it, it would be Denver, right?