After starting the series with two wins, the Denver Nuggets (59-32) now find themselves in a best of three situation with the Phoenix Suns (51-40) coming to town tonight for Game 5 overall. Denver has lost each of their last two games despite heroic efforts from Nikola Jokic, and they’ve been getting torched into oblivion by Devin Booker, who’s shooting 79.1 percent over the last two games on 43 total shot attempts. 

For the Nuggets, they need some consistency out of the rest of their lineup. Outside of a 6-of-10 showing from 3-point range in Game 3, Michael Porter Jr. is 3-of-15 in the other three games. After going 6-of-10 from downtown in Game 1, Jamal Murray is 2-of-18 from distance in the last three games. Denver has the firepower on paper to hang with this Phoenix roster, but they have to start knocking down shots.

For Phoenix, they’re playing a precarious game right now, but it’s working out in their favor as of now. Booker has been unconscious over the last two games, and he’s been nearly unstoppable through each of the first four games. He and Kevin Durant have taken their incredible shot-making ability to new heights, and this team is going to need that to stay up to maintain their chances in a series. 

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (59-32, 39-7 home) vs Phoenix Suns (51-40, 17-26 away)

When: 8:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. TNT. Show up in Denver. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Expected Starting Lineups:

PHX: PG Cameron Payne, SG Devin Booker, SF Josh Okogie, PF Kevin Durant, C Deandre Ayton

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Chris Paul (groin) OUT

Three Things to Watch

Get a Third Guy Going

Jokic is going to score nearly at will. Murray is going to take a hefty number of shots, and it wouldn’t be the worst thing for him to use his dribble penetration to find open shooters also. Ultimately, this team needs a third guy to start scoring. Whether that is MPJ, Aaron Gordon as a cutter or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who’s heroics in Game 2 helped carry them to a win, someone has to start hitting shots to spread the defense out.

Force Booker and Durant to Work

Over the last two games, Booker and Durant have put on incredible displays of shot-making. When you get to their level, that’s just going to happen. You’re not going to deny them all game long. However, you can’t get discouraged. Force them to earn every single basket. If they rise up for a contested jumper and knock it down in your face, you tip the cap and move on, but don’t let them just get easy jumpers and layups to see their shot fall. 

Get the Offensive Board or Get Back

Over the last two games, the Nuggets have been outscored by a total of 43-21 in the fastbreak points department. When Phoenix is securing a defensive rebound, they’re getting out and running. Sometimes that’s resulting in layups, dunks or open jumpers. Sometimes the Suns are just making tough shots. Regardless of that, if the Nuggets are not going to secure the offensive rebound, they have to get back on defense to prevent easy baskets.