Los Angeles (AFP)
Chris Paul scored 17 points and played 15 assists, to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 123-98 landslide victory over the Denver Nuggets and advance 2-0, in a series of semi-finals of the playoffs of the Western District in the NBA.
Veteran Paul was the key element in the great victory of the Suns, as he picked up five rebounds and finished the match without any error. Each Suns starting player scored more than ten points, and the Phoenix team did not give the Nuggets any opportunity to celebrate their Serbian player, Nikola Jokic, who was named Player of the Year for the 2020-2021 season on Tuesday.
Devin Booker scored 18 points for Phoenix, while DeAndre Ayton, who monitored Jokic throughout the match, added 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Serbian finished the match with 24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and left in the last quarter with Phoenix imposing complete control.
“It was again a team effort, we knew how important this game was,” Paul said, noting that the Suns didn’t want to head to Denver for Game Three on Friday with a tie in the series. “We just wanted to keep the advantage of playing at home and winning.
The Suns advanced in the first half 52-42, then extended this lead to 60-43 thanks to two triples by Jay Crowder.
Phoenix reached the last quarter, leading 86-67, and expanded the difference to 31 points, with the exits of Jokic and Aaron Gordon.
Gordon and Crowder both received technical errors with a strong intervention in the third quarter, but that did not affect the Suns’ revolt. It was clear that the Nuggets missed the absent Canadian Jamal Murray due to a ruptured knee ligament, and Jokic did not receive the necessary support from his tense teammates.
Denver missed eight of his first 10 shots, and things have started to deteriorate ever since. Michael Porter, who injured his back in the first game, played 27 minutes and scored 11 points. As for Will Barton, who has been out of action since April, due to a hamstring problem, he came on as a substitute in the first quarter and scored 10 points in 16 minutes.
But Nuggets coach Michael Malone made no excuses when he described the match as “embarrassing”. “I saw a team that wanted to be present and played with a goal and urgency, and another team that didn’t want to come and played without any rush, and that’s why we lost,” Malone said after the Nuggets lost the biggest difference this season.
“We have a lot of players who played very poorly tonight,” he added. We have allowed the effect of not scoring a shot to affect the other end. It was just an embarrassing performance.”