The daily preview muscles into the paint with NBA Playoffs tips for Game 1 of what shapes as a fascinating West Semi-finals series between Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets.
12:00 (AEST), Tue 8th Jun @ Phoenix Suns Arena
History: Played 191: Suns 104 V Nuggets 87
Last meeting: January 23, 2021: Suns 120 d Nuggets 112 (2OT) at Phoenix Suns Arena
Final Thoughts: After subduing the First Round challenge of some of the NBA’s most dominant superstars, Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets meet in the post-season for the first time since 1989.
Second-seeded Phoenix ended the Lakers’ title defence in six games. The Suns found themselves 2-1 before winning three straight games by an average margin of 17 points.
While Anthony Davis’ injury woes helped the Suns, it was nevertheless a massive effort against the influence of LeBron for a team that hadn’t been to the playoffs for 11 years. Playoffs debutants Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton were outstanding throughout, while the ageless Chris Paul recovered spectacularly after being hampered by a shoulder injury. Booker stole the spotlight with 47 points (including 8 from 10 three-point attempts) in Game 6.
Defensively the Suns have been superb, limiting the Lakers to just 97.5 points per game.
The Nuggets also overcame Damian Lillard and the Blazers in six games – after going down by 14 points in Game 1. Nikola Jokic was typically magnificent, scoring 34-plus points in all but one game. Michael Porter Jr had a strong series, while guard Monte Morris made some important contributions off the bench.
Denver averaged 120.8 points but conceded 119.5 per game.
The Nuggets have won 17 of their last 20 against the Suns, including nine of their last 10 in Phoenix. But there has been barely a struck match between the sides this season.
They’ve faced off three times – all in the space of 22 days in January. The Suns scored a 106-103 upset in Denver, before the Nuggets won 130-126 in overtime and 120-112 in double overtime on back-to-back days in Phoenix. Jokic averaged 30 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists in the Nuggets’ OT victories.
Ayton’s ability to slow Jokic down is a key factor for the Suns. Meanwhile, the Nuggets can’t afford to get torched by Booker as they did by Lillard – which will be difficult as they muddle through with a second-string backcourt, particularly with the wily CP3 pulling the strings for Phoenix.
I can’t go past the Suns at home in Game 1 and they look good to cover.
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