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Suns vs. Nuggets Final Score: Phoenix fails to get revenge on Denver Nuggets falling 119-111

In a tale of two halves for Kevin Durant, the Suns ended up losing to the Nuggets who compiled 38 assists on only 9 turnovers.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Suns fans feared the worst and this was confirmed when Devin Booker was ruled officially out for the matchup against the Nuggets, in a game that they definitely could have used them to settle down and possibly avoid the 17-point hole they faced early on.

However, he was not alone as Jamal Murray AND Aaron Gordon were both out for the Nuggets in their 119-111 win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. Sigh at least we still had The Joker vs. Slim Reaper (are we still calling KD that). However, one would say it was the Nurkic vs. Jokic matchup with the two European big men battling it out in the post the entire night.

At least for Suns fans coping with the fact that we experienced the most flukey Kevin Durant second half in recent (or any) memory going 0-10 from the field, we finally at least have some clarity on Beal’s health status. His timeline seemingly holds up to possibly be cleared for action in a week from now.

The big three emergence is one of the most anticipated events in recent pop culture history, right next to Rockstar Studios soon announcing the release of the highly coveted GTA VI.

Game Flow

First Half

KD wasted no time going on an early 5-point run after a nice turnaround J on the smaller Justin Holiday who also started the game efficiently. Both sides started lighting up the floor going 12-14 shooting for 18 combined points before Mike Malone called the first timeout of the game after Jusuf Nurkic knocked down a triple.

The star power continued to show out with KD and Jokic combining for X with some of the best offense being played you will see this season. Cuts, shooting, passing, and more was on display the entire 1st quarter.

Jusuf Nurkic went right after Jokic the whole quarter, seemingly hunting him on post-up opportunities. The Bosnian Beast had 9 points on 4/5 shooting.

However, the Nuggets simply could not miss, generating a ton of open looks after great ball movement, finishing an absurd 79% from the field on 13 assists.

Vogel went with a lineup of Eric Gordon, Grayson Allen, Josh Okogie, Chimezie Metu, and Drew Eubanks to begin the second quarter, which helped stop the bleeding in some capacity generating some turnovers.

However, a balanced bench effort from the Nuggets including 5 from Julian Strawther and 4 from Christian Braun helped push their lead to 11 before bringing back in the starters. What is clear with the flow of this game is that the Suns sorely miss Book for his playmaking prowess, as the offense looks stagnant without his ability to orchestrate the offense.

The Suns just seemingly could not play physical defense for most of the entire quarter, as Denver got whatever they wanted up to this point in the game whether on the perimeter or in the paint, and seemingly always a step behind.

The Nuggets' hot shooting failed to regress too much as well, finishing shooting 67.4% in total to end the 2nd quarter as well as being 50% from beyond the arc. It was seemingly turning into a blowout until the last couple of minutes of the quarter.

However, the Suns managed to cut the lead after switching to a zone defense to close the half with Gordon and Durant hitting major shots. Jusuf Nurkic had a massive block on MPJ while Gordon swiped the ball away from Peyton Watson on a dunk attempt.

Durant finished the half with 22 points on 8-15 shooting and also moved into the top 10 in all-time points, passing Hall of Famer Moses Malone.

Meanwhile, for the Suns’ supporting cast, Jusuf Nurkic (13) and Eric Gordon (13) both highlight the box score. In terms of offense for offense, the Suns missing Devin Booker and Bradley Beal (who is on track to return in a week’s time) have a tough task.

The reigning MVP also did not have too shabby of a first half finishing with 6 points and 10 ASSISTS to end the half, which accounts for 22 of their team total. The Nuggets also got double-digit contributions from Michael Porter Jr. (10), Reggie Jackson (14), and Kentavious Caldwell Pope (12).

What is amazing is of the Nuggets 70 total first half points they only had ONE made free throw. Talk about some incredible shot-making efficiency.

Game Flow

Second Half

The Suns started the half with the same starters including KBD at the 3. Unfortunately, they started off the quarter flat with sloppy passing and some careless turnovers. Nurkic continued his 3-point success with a top-of-the-key triple to bring him to a total of (18) points on the night.

Suns dug themselves back into a hole interrupted by an Eric Gordon three that prompted a Mike Malone timeout with 7:27 left in the quarter.

The Joker out of the timeout flipped the switch to a score-first mentality including presenting his signature “Somber Shuffle” on a baseline fade. However, the Suns hung around with getting to the line efficiently due to some aggressive rim pressure provided by Grayson Allen and clever jump shot timing from KD.

With Jokic upping his scoring prowess, Durant did the same on the defensive side. Blocking the former MVP and then following with a nice assist to Nurkic for an And-1 conversion. Following the turnover trend, the Suns cut the lead to five after converting another bucket.

The Suns upping the pace severely helped the momentum shift after coming out stale, with an example below of KD finding Nassir Little on a classic fundamental fast break.

Nurkic also continued to be physical with Jokic, in which he was not rewarded for a clear defensive foul. Short-term memory however as Nurkic. went back at him twice in a row with back-to-back hook shots. Former draftmate and teammates went head to head for a solid two minutes in a battle of the post in which the Suns’ center asserted his dominance as a post player.

The crowd was absolutely fired up to say the least.

Phoenix managed to cut the lead down to two in the quarter, and this was all with Durant only having two points the entire 3rd quarter after a major 1st half. The Suns controlled the quarter by generating stops and getting to the foul line consistently.

Oh yeah, Nurkic turning into Hakeem Olajuwon was a good development as well. The picture below encapsulates their battle well.

To begin the fourth quarter in a KD-less lineup, Grayson Allen pulled up from Mesa to splash a three to tie the game at 94 which resulted in a Nuggets timeout. A major shot to set the tempo that the Suns’ energy is at an all-time high. In addition, this was off smothering defense on Deandre Jordan who was forced to rifle the ball out of bounds after being doubled.

Okogie continues to show why he is one (if not) the best Suns perimeter defender, with being everywhere in the passing lanes and forcing additional Nuggets TOs. Both teams struggled shooting after the initial timeout in the quarter.

Josh follows his defense with a massive putback off a missed layup to tie the game, followed by Justin Holiday continuing his phenomenal game adding 15 points on 6-8 shooting. This prompted a timeout from Frank Vogel with 7:42 left in a 100-98 contest.

Durant continued to struggle out of the timeout, going 0-6 in the second half. Meanwhile, Jokic’s three-point struggles continued being 0-3 from beyond the arc. Okogie followed these misses with a crafty reverse drive to the rack while Porter Jr on the other end knocked down an and-one mid-range to push the lead back to the 3 with 6:38 left in the contest.

Peyton Watson got tasked with the Kevin Durant matchup and was showing signs of success with getting back-to-back stops, which resulted in KD going to a passer role finding Nurkic on a nice cut to the basket off a pick and roll. This brings his assist total up to 11.

Both teams continued to trade baskets down the stretch, and both stars KD and Jokic were frustrated with the physicality of the matchup prompting another timeout with 4:38 left in the game at a score of Nuggets 107 - Suns 104.

Another offensive rebound by Josh Okogie leads to Frank Vogel challenging an out-of-bounds call on the Suns and successfully winning granting the Suns another possession. His tenacity has kept Okogie in the game, on top of his success generating offense by slashing.

Quickly, the Suns picked up two fouls on Jokic bringing his total to 3 and therefore inching closer to the bonus. Nurkic’s battle continued with an unorthodox flip shot after Jokic blocked his original attempt bringing his point total to 30 points. On the other end, Jokic drew a foul on Nurkic on a late whistle which resulted in Frank Vogel leaving the bench heated in a hurry.

Nurkic was subbed out for Eubanks with about 3 minutes left in the 4th after picking up his 5th. MPJ knocked in a mid-range shortly after to bring the lead to three followed by yet another miss from KD who heavily struggled in the second half.

Down on the other side of the floor, KCP knocked in a tough corner three to cause a Phoenix timeout bringing the lead to 6 in a 114-106 game with 2:31 left in the game. This brings the Nuggets’ assist total to 37.

Durant continued to struggle from the field but continued to get to the line bringing Watson’s foul total to 5. KD was perfect from the line at this point at 12-12 continuing his 66 -in-a-row streak.

Following a missed Nuggets jumper, Nurkic absorbed contact from The Joker to get his fourth to get to the line going 1 for 2 and bringing his point total to 31 (a season-high and two off his career-high).

KD had no shortage of good looks, but could not knock in a jumper going 0-10 from the field in the second half. A complete 180 from his shooting performance in the first. Shortly after, Nurkic fouled out on a charge facing up to the basket on good defense from Jokic.

After review, the refs controversially deemed the move “unnatural” that warranted the Nuggets two free throws and possession. This changed the game completely for the Suns, as they lost their leading scorer while giving the Nuggets another chance to score.

A few of these types of calls including two errand out-of-bounds calls have cost the Suns dearly in this game. These will be interesting to review after-the-fact debating if some of these were called correctly.

Jokic capped off the game with a sweet layup off a drive, and a Josh Okogie missed three finalized what was a chaotic game from start to finish in which the Suns’ failed to take revenge after suffering a second-round exit in Denver last season.

One thing for sure is that when these teams match up, it is always an entertaining affair. Will be eagerly waiting to see when the next time these squads can go up against each other with all personnel fully healthy.

Nuggets Win 119-111

What’s Next?

The Phoenix Suns (11-8) go on a back-to-back to face the Memphis Grizzlies (4-13) on their home floor tomorrow at 5 PM AZ time. This will be their second time facing the squad, in what could potentially be a return for Devin Booker.

This game may be good to get Book some run before the Suns’ In-Season tournament knockout round debut on Tuesday. Therefore, it will be interesting to monitor his status leading up to the matchup.

Suns will be looking to bounce back in this one after failing to steal tonight’s matchup against the Nuggets also down key players in Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon.

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