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Christmas Recap: Suns unable to slow Jokic, Gordon, coming up short in OT

Plus: Devin Booker re-aggravates groin injury, leaving future availability unclear

Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns fell in overtime 128-125 to the Denver Nuggets, who now hold the top spot in the West standings. Landry Shamet matched a career-high 31 points in relief of Devin Booker, who left after four minutes and didn’t return.

It was a nightmare-ish start for the Suns, going down early on a 13-2 run by Denver which included a turnover by Deandre Ayton and settling for two elbow jumpers that hit front rim. Suns responded with a mini 7-3 run to keep it from getting out of hand.

However, Mikal Bridges accumulated his second foul by the first timeout, but instead of Shamet entering the game for him, Shamet came in for Booker, who had re-aggravated his groin injury.

Without Booker — and still without Cam Johnson — the Suns struggled to find offensive firepower that could compete, but after they got their feet under them, they closed the first quarter on a 13-2 run over the final four minutes, which included eight points from Bridges. They were only down 24-28 after one.

The run continued into the second, starting with eight straight points for the Suns, prompting a Denver timeout. Damion Lee hit two three-pointers during the two-minute stretch.

The run capped out at 23-3 before the Nuggets got back on track offensively, who got the benefit of the doubt on a bunch of plays, including no-calls on an obvious travel and over-and-back against Aaron Gordon.

Over the rest of the first half, the Suns flashed the energetic and assertive look of their peak powers, shown best on this possession which saw more passes (eight) than dribbles (six):

Suns took a 57-51 lead into the break after being down as much as 15 in the half. Shamet tied Nikola Jokic for the game-high 15 points; all of Shamet’s points came in the final five minutes of the half.

Phoenix got off to another hot start in the third, going on a 12-6 run before Denver had to call timeout. Torrey Craig hit a couple of threes early in the stretch to bring his total to 11 points.

Ayton, who came into the game averaging 22.5 points and 12.0 rebounds in his last eight matchups against Jokic, found his shooting touch a bit in the third, connecting on a few of his mid-range jumpers.

After Shamet (19 points, three assists) and Jokic (31 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists) once again went toe-to-toe to close the third, the Suns entered the fourth up 84-81. Phoenix was 53-0 when leading after three quarters a season ago; they’re 16-3 so far this season with a chance to make it 17-3.

Shamet kept up his hot play into the fourth with an early three before drawing an offensive foul on the other end. With 5:37 remaining in the game, Phoenix held an eight-point lead before a 10-1 run gave Denver the lead with 3:08 remaining. Neither team gained much separation the rest of the way.

Suns had a chance to put the game on ice when it was tied at 113 with 10.7 seconds left, but a moving screen by Bridges halted momentum. He got redemption on the other end blocking Jamal Murray’s game-winning attempt from distance, sending the game into overtime.

As Jokic’s absurd takeover continued and it seemed like the Suns were down and out, Shamet showed up yet again with some timely three-point hits. Aaron Gordon then had maybe the dunk of the year right on Shamet’s head, which ended up being the final nail in the coffin.

What more can be said about Jokic? 41 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists for his third 40-point game in his last six as well as it being his fourth triple double in his last seven games. Credit where credit is due, the man is on an unbelievable pace and could very well win his third straight MVP this season.

Shamet deserves credit too; after setting a career-high in scoring on Tuesday with 31, he matches that mark just five days later, giving him something to build on going forward as Booker’s availability is once again up in the air.

Suns (19-15) will have another chance at a W on Tuesday when they travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies (20-12), who are coming off a tough Christmas loss of their own. Dillon Brooks talked a big game about wanting to defend Booker in this matchup, but that’s now in question. Bally Sports AZ will carry the game which tips at 6 p.m. AZ time.

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