The Phoenix Suns did what they needed to do, just like the Denver Nuggets did in games 1 and 2. Win your home games.
The Suns rode a huge fourth quarter from Landry Shamet and the Suns bench, who scored 20 of the Suns last 31 points in a huge win that ties the Conference Semifinal series at 2-2.
Devin Booker was incredible again, scoring 36 points on 14 of 18 shooting, while also dishing 12 assists, grabbing 6 rebounds and a steal. Kevin Durant contributed his own monster game, with 36 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and a block.
But the difference maker was Landry Shamet, who made FOUR big threes in the fourth quarter to hold off the Nuggets and scored a career-playoff-high 19 points.
For the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic had another incredible game with 53 points and 11 assists, but it wasn’t enough to carry the Nuggets to victory.
Suns win, 129-124.
Next game of the best-of-seven series is in Denver, on Tuesday night.
A 7-2 start for the Suns would see Ayton grab three offensive rebounds, compete in rim protection, and get out on the run on the open floor – helping in setting a tone through the first timeout.
You LOVE to see it from DA. pic.twitter.com/7C7qPJvK0y— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) May 8, 2023
His minutes were very “I heard what you all were saying,” early on.
That would be followed by more Durant maneuvering downhill and getting to his spots. He’d go 3-for-7 in the first frame, but the feel was abundantly clear in his scoring.
Booker would lead with 13 points.
Denver followed the first time out with a double-digit run, that’d be answered 13-5 to end the frame for the Suns – capped off by a full-court pass from Booker to Durant for two – to cut the deficit to one into the second, 34-32.
The second would see a 3-3 start with the Suns defensive activity abundant, forcing an early timeout from Malone.
Phoenix would then continue on an all-impressive run with Jokic off the floor that reached 19-11.
Upon returning in the second, Jokic would get into a very unique scuffle with Suns fans on the teams first half baseline, which would see Jokic push a few spectators – including Suns owner Mat Ishbia – as he implored for fans higher in the stands to return the ball to the floor.
The scuffle would net the 2-time MVP a technical foul.
Resuming play, the Suns would see success hitting the pressure points of the Nuggets defense.
Getting two to the ball with Durant in the post, manipulating and isolating taggers via their quick-hitting sets, and generating good shot quality, on repeat.
That again would stem from defense like this from Durant, which would springboard them into offense.
Ending the half pic.twitter.com/Xrs7TVsFlq— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 8, 2023
Booker and Durant at the helm, would combine for 40 in the first half as the Suns would play off their event-causing defense.
Durant (21p) & Booker (19p) combine for 40 in the first half— Stephen PridGeon ☯️ (@StayTrueSDot3) May 8, 2023
They're a combined 13-for-20 from 2 pic.twitter.com/uvtVis1agr
They’d stamp pace on the attack by way of the defense and rebounding, to take a lead into the half
Suns had a 112.2 half-court offensive efficiency, Denver 110.6 – Nikola Jokic would register 24 points.
The Suns would follow back-to-back 30+ point quarters in the first half, with two more equally as prolific.
A 9-2 early third-quarter run saw the Suns take the Nuggets uppercut to the chin, regroup, and re-establish their two-way process – rooted in defensive activity and playing with pace and flow into their offense.
Nikola Jokic would score, score, and score some more
The role players would steal a relevant and timely portion of the plot in the second half, via defensive activity from Shamet, Ross, and Warren-galore.
That would then parlay into tempo for the Suns, and see them stamp their offensive process stemming from it.
Ross would come up with some timely second-side play, en route to a 5-point second half.
Meanwhile, Shamet would have maybe the moment of his career with a loud 17-point effort – behind four ultra-timely hits from deep.
MAKE THAT FIVE TRIPLES. https://t.co/eXH6gPb1Vi— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 8, 2023
He would take full advantage of the attention put on-ball by the Nuggets, as the eventual recipient on the other side of the floor, and not hesitate.
That floor balance, in addition to Booker (17) and Durant (15) in scoring, proved to be enough for the Suns.
The offensive will naturally steal headlines, but it all stemmed from their defensive activity and connectivity.
Nikola Jokic finished with a dominant 53 points on 30 attempts. Becoming the first center since 1975 to go for 50-plus in the playoffs (also a franchise record, as well).
Booker would set a playoff career-high with 12 assists.
Monty pressed essentially all of the right buttons in games 3 & 4— Stephen PridGeon ☯️ (@StayTrueSDot3) May 8, 2023
Adjustments in scheme, in addition to the rotations & lineups used showed great feel for the series
Outcoached Malone in the last two
The Suns bench would finish with 40 bench points, +29 in scoring there.
They will need efforts similar to these for this team to reach the heights they are more than capable of, down the line and as soon as Tuesday, in Denver.