Only one postseason game was played Wednesday night: Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals series between the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns.
The Nuggets, running out of steam in the desert in Game 1, had the opportunity to even the series after a disappointing opening game.
Would a hobbled Michael Porter Jr. and the return of Will Barton be enough to help newly crowned MVP Nikola Jokic take control of Game 2?
No. 2 Phoenix Suns 123, No. 3 Denver Nuggets 98
PHX leads series 2-0
Early on, there was a similar feel to the Nuggets’ performance against the Suns in Game 2 after their Game 1 letdown. While they played a more competitive first half in Game 1, Denver entered halftime trailing just 10 points despite poor shooting from MPJ and Monte Morris.
However, the second half was a much different story, with the Suns jumping to a 20-point lead almost immediately. With the Nuggets’ playing passively on offense and lacking the defensive wherewithal to hold up on the other end, Denver entered the fourth quarter trailing 19 points.
Quite frankly, by then it was already over.
The Suns starting lineup brought their A-game on Wednesday night, with all of them scoring in the double-digits.
“Point God” Chris Paul led the way with a 17-point, 15 assist double-double, failing to turn the ball over a single time.
Franchise pillars Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton each recorded double-doubles of their own, with Booker having a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds and Ayton chipping in 15 points and 10 rebounds. 3-and-D specialists Jae Crowder (11), Mikal Bridges (16) and Torrey Craig (10) all finished with double-digit scoring numbers as well.
While Porter, who played with a back injury, had a poor game with 11 points on 3-for-13 shooting from the field, the Nuggets’ backcourt was mediocre for the second consecutive game.
Denver’s guard play has clearly been a step behind Phoenix’s, with starting point guard Facundo Campazzo tallying three points on 1-for-7 shooting, starting shooting guard Austin Rivers scoring six points on 2-for-5 shooting, backup guard Monte Morris ice cold with three points on 1-for-7 shooting and rookie guard Markus Howard scoring six points on 2-for-6 shooting.
The Nuggets’ guard rotation combined to score 18 points, as many as Booker had in the entire game for Phoenix.
The lone bright spot for Denver was the aggressive playmaking from Jokic and Barton. Jokic had a game-high 24 points to go along with 13 rebounds and six assists, while Barton (who hasn’t played since April) managed 10 points and three assists in just 16 minutes.
Now trailing 2-0, the Nuggets will have to rebound quickly as the series shifts to Denver for Game 3 on Friday, June 11. The Nuggets will need a healthy Porter and Barton to have a chance to compete on Friday.
Otherwise, it may already be too late.