What: Phoenix Suns (0-0) vs. Denver Nuggets (0-0)
When: 5:30 p.m. AZ Time
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
Watch: Bally Sports AZ, TNT
Listen: 98.7 FM
Here we are, Suns fans, round two of the NBA playoffs. There were some times this season where the Phoenix Suns seemed destined to be a first round out at best, yet here they are having finished off the Los Angeles Clippers for the right to challenge the top-seeded Nuggets.
This will be the Suns’ first game one on the road in a loooooong time. Their last such game was in 2010, when they began the Western Conference Finals on the road in Los Angeles for a series that would end in a horrible heartbreak and kick off a decade of mostly really depressing times.
The Nuggets are a tough team, and this edition is more complete than the version the Suns steamrolled in four straight games in 2021.
History tells us that game one is not decisive. The Suns dropped game one at home against the Clippers, and here we are. But winning is always better than not, and for the Suns to steal a game on the road to open the series against a Nuggets squad that is MUCH better at home than away (34-7 home vs. 19-22 on the road this regular season) would be huge.
Probable Starting Lineups
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Devin Booker
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Torrey Craig
C: Deandre Ayton
PG: Jamal Murray
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Michael Porter Jr.
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Jokic
Neither club lists any injuries.
Keys to the game:
This game, and this series, is all about matchups. Namely, which team can more effectively matchup on the other club’s shot-takers.
Denver’s big star, of course, is perennial MVP candidate Nikoa Jokic. The big man averaged an efficient 25 points per game this season, and can score in all three levels.
As controversial as he has sometimes been in his career, Deandre Ayton is the near perfect man for the job of guarding Jokic. He has the size and strength to stand in against Jokic down low, and more than enough mobility to stick with his assignment when Jokic steps out to the perimeter, as he often does.
Ayton was a huge factor in holding Jokic to just 53% true shooting when they clashed in the Suns’ sweep of the Nuggets two years ago, While it might be unreasonable to expect a repeat of that performance, it goes to show the power of this matchup in comparison with the Nuggets previous round opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who relied on the far less mobile Rudy Gobert to unsuccessfully contain Jokic.
On the other side...the Nuggets really have nobody to guard Kevin Durant. They can probably sorta deal with Booker. Kentavious Caldwell Pope can be an annoying long-armed defender of wings. But he’s only 6’5. Nuggets fans will argue that Aaron Gordon has improved defensively, but I think disapassionately you’d have to not like him in that matchup. Likewise Denver faithful will say that MPJ has learned to play solid team defense, but he’s realistically a horrible mismatch against Durant too and won’t draw that assignment.
You have to like that, for the Suns.
For more on the matchups, betting odds, strengths and weaknesses of each team, check the story links under this article.
This mmight sound homeriffic of me against the #1 seed on the road, but I like the Suns in this one. I think they’re healthy, well-rested, and have the favorable matchups. That’s not to say it won’t be a tough one, I think it will. But I see the Suns pulling out a close one.
Suns win, 124-120.