The Phoenix Suns dropped a winnable game and will now fight an uphill battle as they head back to Phoenix down 0-2. Now it’s their turn to protect their home court and send it back to Denver tied up at two a piece.
Chris Paul left the game with groin tightness and did not return. Kevin Durant went 10-for-27, the Suns went 6-for-31 from three, and they were outshot at the free throw line 21-to-5. Phoenix’s bench had just 4 points. FOUR.
The Suns shot 6-for-31 from three and were outshot at the FT line 21-to-5.— Zona (@ZonaHoops_) May 2, 2023
Impossible to win a playoff game with that happening regardless of how well you played defensively.
Devin Booker scored 35 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, on 14/29 shooting.
Monty Williams opted to keep Josh Okogie in the starting lineup in this one.
The Suns started the 1st quarter with a lot more physicality than we saw in Game 1. The shots from deep were not falling as they started 0-6 from deep in the first 7 minutes of action. Deandre Ayton’s activity level on both ends was encouraging early on.
Durant missed his first 4 shots of the evening before finally connecting on his fifth attempt to give him his first points.
Phoenix’s first substitutions of the night was Bismack Biyombo followed by Torrey Craig and Cam Payne. Payne provided a spark of energy immediately, pushing the tempo and drawing a charge to shift the momentum early back in Phoenix’s favor.
After the first quarter of action, the Suns had a 21-18 lead in what was a physical, defensive 12 minutes of basketball. It was Denver’s second-lowest scoring output in a single quarter this entire season.
Ish Wainright was the next option off the bench by Monty after a brief Damion Lee appearance for the final four seconds of the first quarter, making the rotation extend to 10 players through the first 13 minutes. Landale shortly thereafter checked in for Ayton making it 11 players deep early on.
The second quarter was brutal, as the Suns didn’t score a bucket for the first 4 minutes of play, stuck at 21 points until Kevin Durant banked in a 3-pointer. The Suns went 6:45 with only two buckets, it was that kind of stretch.
Book knocks it down.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 2, 2023
He's up to 11 on the night. pic.twitter.com/aXNgXM8jQd
The best way to summarize this first half of play is that it was brutally ugly offense, physical defense, and a whole lot of scrambling from each team. A late surge from Booker saved Phoenix’s stagnant offense and helped them regain the lead.
Phoenix held Denver to just 40 first half points, which was their lowest output this season in any half.
The Suns took a 42-40 lead heading into the half led by 17 points and 4 assists from Devin Booker and 10 points and 6 rebounds from Deandre Ayton.
Nikola Jokic led Denver with 13 points in the first half, and the only other Nugget in double digits was Aaron Gordon with 10.
The Suns did not attempt a single free throw in the first half.
The pace picked up a bit early in the 3rd quarter as each team was getting into their offense quicker and getting cleaner looks. Devin Booker started to cook in the closing moments of the 2nd quarter and it carried over in the 3rd.
Chris Paul started to find his rhythm hitting a pair of middies, followed by tweaking his groin and he would head to the locker room. Cam Payne would check in to take his spot.
UPDATE: Chris Paul (left groin tightness) will NOT return. We will keep you updated as soon as we hear more.
INJURY UPDATE: Chris Paul (left groin tightness) will not return.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 2, 2023
Devin Booker took over in the third, scoring in a variety of ways. He poured in 14 points in the 3rd to put him up to 31 in the game. No one else was doing much offensively to this point, but due to Phoenix’s defense they were in front.
Phoenix took a 73-70 into the 4th quarter after the Devin Booker show.
The start of the 4th quarter had quite the suffocating, intense feel to it. A pair of threes from KCP gave Denver a 76-73 lead which led to a Phoenix timeout with 8:56 left in the ball game.
The Suns started 0-for-9 to begin the 4th quarter, and Denver took advantage extending their lead to five after a Jamal Murray floater.
A pair of Durant buckets cut the lead back down to one, 77-78.
The team traded blows and the physicality persisted, but ultimately Denver’s toughness combined with Phoenix’s inability to hit threes were the death of them.
Jokic found the open shooters and in the end, it snowballed into a Denver run that they would never relinquish. The Joker finished with 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 5 assists in the victory for Denver.
Back to Phoenix, it’s time to protect the Footprint Center.