After a hard fought series against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Denver Nuggets begin their second round series against the Suns tonight in Phoenix. After beginning last series with a loss, the Nuggets look to begin this series on a high note against a Phoenix team that is much improved and has been on a tear this season.

After finishing the regular season second in the Western Conference, the Suns downed the Los Angeles Lakers in six games to advance to the second round. Led by veteran point guard Chris Paul and young star Devin Booker, the Suns possess a young team with tons of talent behind a phenomenal head coach in Monty Williams.

Denver went 2-1 against Phoenix in the regular season with one of those victories coming in overtime and the other coming in double overtime. Both teams have a ton of talent, but the Nuggets have the best player in the series in future 2020-21 NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic. After a dominant first round series against the Trail Blazers, Jokic will look to continue his strong play to hopefully lead the Nuggets to their second consecutive Western Conference Finals.

It all begins on Monday night in Phoenix so let’s get to the preview and see how these two teams matchup ahead of Game 1.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (3 seed) @ Phoenix Suns (2 seed)

When: 8:00 p.m. MST

Where: Phoenix Suns Arena

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. The game will be nationally televised on TNT. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Phoenix. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Bright Side Of The Sun

Expected Starting Lineups:

Suns: PG Chris Paul, SG Devin Booker, SF Mikal Bridges, PF Jae Crowder, C Deandre Ayton

Nuggets: PG Facundo Campazzo, SG Austin Rivers, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Michael Porter Jr., C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Will Barton (right hamstring strain), PJ Dozier (right adductor strain), Jamal Murray (left ACL surgery) all OUT

Three Things to Watch

Can the Nuggets slow down Devin Booker?

A big reason why LeBron and the Lakers are sitting at home and Phoenix is playing in this round has to do with the play of Devin Booker. In the Suns first round series against the Lakers, Booker averaged 29.7 points per game and shot 42.7 percent from beyond the three-point line. Booker is also playing 40.8 minutes per game, so he barely comes off the floor.

The Nuggets have to find a way to slow him down with a mixture of guys like Facu Campazzo, Austin Rivers, Monte Morris, and even Aaron Gordon. If the Nuggets can slow Booker down, there is a great chance they have success in this series. Booker is the Suns x-factor so if the Nuggets can slow him down their chances of winning increase exponentially.

The matchup between Nikola Jokic and Deandre Ayton:

This will be a fun matchup to watch because in prior meetings it feels like Jokic has always got the best of Ayton. In the regular season Ayton really took a step forward though so it will be interesting to see how he and Jokic matchup this time around.

If the Nuggets can win the battle down low, it gives them an edge in this series which they desperately need considering how well Phoenix shoots the deep ball. Jokic dominating like he always does would give the Nuggets a clear cut advantage in this series, but taking into consideration Ayton’s growth as a player make this a fun matchup to watch.

Will the Nuggets open this series with a victory?

After losing Game 1 of their last series against Portland, the Nuggets will look for a different result Monday night in Phoenix. A win on Monday night would allow the Nuggets to feel a lot better going into Game 2 on Wednesday night and would take almost all the pressure off Denver. As long as the Nuggets find a way to win one game in Phoenix, it will give them a huge advantage going into Game 3 Friday night in Denver. Hopefully the Nuggets can get that win out of the way tonight and start this series on a high note.