NBA playoffs 2nd round predictions for Suns vs. Nuggets
The stage is set for the second round of the NBA playoffs as Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns will take on Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets.
Both of these two teams squared off three times in the regular season, with Denver winning the series 2-1.
However, each game was decided by eight points or less, and two of the matchups went into overtime.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Suns took down the Los Angeles Lakers in six games while the Nuggets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in six games as well.
The Nuggets will be without starting point guard Jamal Murray who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in April and will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery.
Here is a look at what others around the basketball world are predicting heading into this second round matchup.
Michael C. Wright: Suns in six games
Wright breaks down the matchup into three parts, the battle of the bigs between Deandre Ayton and Jokić, how Denver handles the Suns’ backcourt of Devin Booker and Chris Paul and the matchup between wings Mikal Bridges vs. Michael Porter Jr.
Bridges and Jae Crowder will split time guarding Porter Jr. who has taken a big leap forward this year and has provided additional scoring for Denver in Murray’s absence. Last season in the playoffs, Porter Jr. averaged 11.4 points per game in 19 games. In the first round series vs. the Blazers, the 6-foot-10 forward put up 18.8 points while shooting 53% from the field.
This series is the type of matchup in which we’re all likely to finally notice the talent deficiency the Nuggets have overcome for quite some time. Denver managed to pick apart Portland’s weak defense, but it now faces a Suns defense that ranked sixth during the regular season. Going all the way back to last year’s bubble, Phoenix has been in synch and on a mission with just the right mix of veteran leadership, experience, youth and hunger.
Bill Reiter: Suns in five games
Reiter believes that if Paul doesn’t re-aggravate his right shoulder, the Suns will have the backcourt advantage against Denver. That certainly will be the case as the Nuggets have been starting guards Austin Rivers and Facundo Campazzo.
Besting a hapless Portland team that regressed to Dame Time and a bunch of other guys is one thing. Taking down the Lakers, even with A.D.’s absence at the series’ close, is something else entirely. Deandre Ayton has improved by leaps and bounds, Devin Booker is a star, Chris Paul has found the right place for his opus and Monty Williams knows just what strings to pull to get the best out of the team’s depth and young talent.
Mike Singer: Nuggets in seven games
The Denver Posts writes that despite Ayton improving significantly on both ends of the court this season, they are giving the edge to NBA MVP finalist Jokić. In their three matchups earlier this season, the Nuggets center averaged 25.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 8.3 assists against Phoenix. Throughout this postseason for Denver, Jokić is putting up an impressive 33.0 points points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game and 4.5 assists in six games.
It was tough to know whether Denver’s confidence, even in the wake of Jamal Murray’s ACL tear, had any merit. Talk, as Michael Malone likes to say, is cheap. Since then, the Nuggets are 17-7, improved their playoff seed and went on the road to clinch a series in six games. Nothing in this backwards season makes sense, and the West is wide open. With the best player in the NBA this season, the Nuggets’ storybook season continues, even against a team that’s probably more talented in the aggregate.
James Hubert: Nuggets in seven games
Hubert is eyeing the matchup down low between Ayton and Jokić. If Ayton gets himself into foul trouble, he believes it could mean bad news for Phoenix. The CBS writer goes on to say that he expects Nuggets wingman Will Barton to come back as he is nursing an injured hamstring. In 56 games for Denver this season, Barton is averaging up 12.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
Phoenix is playing better basketball right now, and it deserves to be favored against a team missing its second-best player. I’m going with the Nuggets, though, because there are just no good answers for Nikola Jokic. His two-man game with Monte Morris isn’t the same as his two-man game with Jamal Murray, but it’ll still be a major challenge for the Suns collectively and Deandre Ayton individually.