Who: Phoenix Suns (0-1) vs. Denver Nuggets (1-0)
What: Western Conference Semi-Finals. Round Two, Game Two.
Where: Ball Arena — Denver, Colorado
When: 7:00 pm AZ time
Watch: Bally Sports Arizona, TNT
Listen: 98.7 FM
DraftKings Betting Line: Denver is favored by 4.5 points at home in G2
Everyone take a deep breath. The sky isn’t falling... yet. Yes, it was a tough Game 1 loss where Denver outclassed Phoenix in nearly every phase of the game. It’s easy to overreact to one game and make sweeping assumptions for the rest of the series. We just have to let this thing play out and see how the Suns respond tonight.
As the old adage goes “a series doesn’t start until the home team loses”. If the Suns can steal Game 2 heading back to Phoenix, then they’re in terrific shape moving forward.
Cutting down on turnovers will be the first item on the agenda for this Suns squad if they want to take Denver down.
The Nuggets are an astounding 38-7 (including playoffs) at home this season. Denver is a tough place to win, so you certainly cannot expect to win if you lose the turnover battle and get outrebounded on the offensive glass 16-to-8. A lot of that can be controlled by decision-making and effort. Correctable mistakes are a positive sign, and a lot of the Suns’ downfall came from simple areas that they can correct.
Probable Starting Lineups
- PG: Chris Paul
- SG: Devin Booker
- SF: Josh Okogie
- PF: Kevin Durant
- C: Deandre Ayton
- PG: Jamal Murray
- SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
- SF: Michael Porter Jr.
- PF: Aaron Gordon
- C: Nikola Jokic
None listed for either team
Keys to the Game
Disrupt Jamal Murray
It’s widely known that Jamal Murray lights the Suns up nearly every time he faces them, so Saturday’s offensive brilliance should come as no surprise.
I thought the Suns did a decent job of contesting most of his shots, but the pressure on-ball could’ve been more disruptive, and Josh Okogie agrees.
“I was the first person guarding him and I felt like I didn’t put enough pressure on him. Watching the film, I see where I can be a little bit more aggressive,” Okogie said.
He made some absolutely tough shots, and when he’s making moves like this, there’s not much you can do.
The key will be to not let him get comfortable early, which is exactly what the Suns did early on and he’s the type of scorer that just needs to see one go in and it snowballs into an offensive explosion.
Playing him more physically and applying heavy ball pressure to get him out of his comfort zone will be the key. He was just simply way too comfortable out there on Saturday night, so I expect the Suns to get into him a little more early and often.
This one goes hand in hand with slowing Jamal Murray down, but on a wider scale, we need to see Phoenix control the glass and defend the pick-and-roll with more attention to detail and purpose.
It starts with none other than the anchor of the Suns’ defense in Deandre Ayton. His activity level on the defensive end and the glass will dictate what kind of night it will be.
Phoenix will need a truly locked-in version of Ayton that is communicating, hustling, rebounding, altering shots, and boxing out. THE LITTLE THINGS.
If he can play with a high effort level, the Suns have a good shot. If he plays low energy or disengaged, it becomes a steep hill to climb.
The Suns’ transition defense also has to be better to slow down this machine of an offense. You simply cannot let Denver get easy looks in transition, because they are already a solid half-court offensive team.
Limiting the turnovers and second-chance points will also be crucial in terms of getting the defense right.
Let Kevin Cook
This game has Kevin Durant written all over it. I am predicting a 40-piece from KD in an absolute masterclass. He might’ve been on his way to one had the game not been busted open midway through the 4th.
Durant finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds on 12/19 shooting in 36 minutes of action. He also chipped in with 3 blocks, 1 steal and 1 assist. The seven (7) turnovers were uncharacteristic from him, and something that should be corrected in Game 2.
"The Nuggets? Surprised? Am I surprised about the Nuggets? Hell no. They're the number one seed for a reason. They got a two-time MVP, they got a deep team."— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 30, 2023
— Kevin Durantpic.twitter.com/wXXMwcdmux
Sometimes the best offense you can do is just get Kevin Durant the ball and get the hell out of his way. He’s Kevin Durant. I truly hope we see a takeover game from him where not only he asserts himself, but the Suns also look to target him frequently within the flow of the offense. No more going 9 or 10 straight possessions without getting a touch, that’s just unacceptable.
I’d also like to see Durant (and the rest of the team) shoot more threes in Game 2, as they only mustered 23 attempts from deep while connecting on just 7 of them. In order to keep pace with Denver’s offense, you can’t be outshot from three-point range by 14 and expect to win.
Suns win in clutch time. 117-113. Let’s take this thing back to Phoenix with a split.