Game 1 was fairly close until mid 3rd quarter. They were tied at the end of the first and Denver led by just 1 going into the half. Denver lost the game 122-105. Mikal Bridges led the game in scoring with his 23 points and Chris Paul led in assists.
The Phoenix Suns are now 1-0 in Round 2 of the Western Conference Playoffs against the Denver Nuggets.
What went wrong for the Denver Nuggets?
1. Phoenix Starting 5:
The Phoenix Suns dynamic duo of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton were expected to ball out as they normally do. But it was their remaining 3 starters who were the reasons of this win. 4 Phoenix Suns scored over 20 points. Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul had double-doubles in rebounds and assists respectively too.
2. Lack of Free Throw attempts
The Denver Nuggets attempted just 6 free throws the whole game. For context, Phoenix attempted 20. The lack of aggressiveness from Denver led them to lose out on free points at the line. Jokic in the first round himself averaged 6 FTA but tonight he attempted 0.
3. Stars Struggle
For the Denver Nuggets to win they need three things to work for them. Jokic MVP-level performance, MPJ scores a lot and efficiently and one or 2 of their role players step up. Campazzo, JaMychal Green and Aaron Gordan played well to their standards. But MPJ scored only 15 points but had a +/- of -6. Jokic played like a low level all-star center rather than the MVP he is. Getting only 3 assists for a center is okay, but for Jokic that’s poor. He runs the offence and getting only 3 assists is unacceptable.
4. Unstoppable Run
The start of 3rd quarter looked like the Denver Nuggets might sneak away with this win. But after missing their first 5 shots of the quarter Phoenix went on a massive run. They not only outscored the Nuggets by 10 in that quarter but they forced them to miss a lot of shots. Because of the momentum shift, Denver felt pressured to take those long range shots. Denver were leading massively in efficiency but it all fell like a rock in that run. Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges turned up their motor and got the game massively in Phoenix’s favor.
5. Misplaced Priority
The Denver Nuggets were so afraid of Devin Booker that they looked to get him in foul trouble. Because of that, every offensive possession they started forcing to Aaron Gordon who mismatched Devin Booker. Devin only had 3 fouls to end the game and Aaron Gordan did have a good game. But instead of fouling out Devin Booker they could’ve focused on increasing their lead. The had made a lot of 3’s and the shooters were hot. But they moved away from the 3 and when they needed it later they were stuck in a shooting slump. Hindsight is 20/20 but for game 2 they can focus on first cementing their lead and then taking out the comeback chances.
Hope for Nuggets Fans
It is highly unlikely that Mikal Bridges will have another 23 point game on 67% shooting. Against the Lakers he averaged just 9 points on 38% shooting from the field. Also Nikola Jokic is most likely the MVP and that comes with a level of consistency that he will come back to. The Nuggets collectively averaged 25 FTA in the first round so just 6 is an anomaly. They will be more aggressive. The Nuggets have good coaching and will learn on how to stop Phoenix’s runs. The Denver Nuggets are a top 10 offensive team and the 12th best defensive team in the league. It has been evident during the regular season and most of the playoffs. Denver loses when MPJ scores less but that happens far too less. As soon as MPJ decides to turn it up, Phoenix will be in trouble.