Only one postseason game was played on Wednesday evening: Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals series between the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns.
The nuggets, who ran out of breath in Game 1 in the desert, had the opportunity to level the series after a disappointing opening game.
Would a hobbling Michael Porter Jr. and the return of Will Barton be enough to help new MVP Nikola Jokic take control of Game 2?
No. 2 Phoenix Suns 123, No. 3 Denver Nuggets 98
PHX leads series 2-0
Initially, the Nuggets’ performance against the Suns in Game 2 was similar after their disappointment in Game 1. While they played a more competitive first half in Game 1, Denver went into halftime just 10 points behind despite poor shooting from MPJ and Monte Morris.
The second half was a whole different story, however, as the Suns jumped to a 20-point lead almost immediately. With the Nuggets playing passively on offense and lacking the defensive resources to survive at the other end, Denver went into the fourth quarter 19 points behind.
To be honest, it was over by then.
The starting line-up of the Suns brought their A game with double-digit hits on Wednesday evening.
“Point God” Chris Paul led the way with a double-double with 17 points and 15 assists without turning the ball once.
The franchise pillars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton each recorded their own double doubles, with Booker achieving a team high with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Ayton Chipping with 15 points and 10 rebounds. The 3-and-D specialists Jae Crowder (11), Mikal Bridges (16) and Torrey Craig (10) all finished with double-digit ratings.
While Porter, who played with a back injury, had a bad game with 11 points in 3-on-13 shooting from the field, the Nuggets backcourt was mediocre for the second game in a row.
Denver’s guard game was clearly a step behind Phoenix, with starting point guard Facundo Campazzo scoring three points in a shooting 7-1, starting shooting guard Austin Rivers scoring six points in shooting 2-5, backup guard Monte Morris Ice cold with three points in 1-on-7 shooting and rookie guard Markus Howard with six points in 2-on-6 shooting.
The Nuggets’ guard rotation added up to 18 points, as many as Booker had for Phoenix in the entire game.
The only bright spot for Denver was the aggressive play of Jokic and Barton. Jokic had a game high of 24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, while Barton (who hasn’t played since April) managed 10 points and three assists in just 16 minutes.
The Nuggets are now 2-0 down and need to recover quickly as the series moves to Denver for Game 3 on Friday, June 11th. The nuggets need a healthy porter and Barton to compete on Friday.
Otherwise it may be too late.