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Michael Porter Jr. tweaked back in Nuggets’ Game 1 loss to Suns

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) drives as Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) defends during Game 1 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Monday, June 7, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Injured Denver Nuggets perimeter players Will Barton, P.J. Dozier and even Jamal Murray worked up a decent sweat Monday prior to tip-off of their team’s Game 1 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Denver entered Monday of its second-round series with a sizeable injury toll, the most painful of them Murray’s ACL tear that will keep the rising star guard out until next season.

The Nuggets are thin, and lost in the many storylines for both clubs in Phoenix’s Game 1 win was that Denver may have taken another injury hit mid-game.

Michael Porter Jr. got off to a clean start, scoring 12 first-half points and abusing Suns switches. But he appeared in halftime warmups with a wrap around his back.

While Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said Porter is expected to play Wednesday in Game 2, the injury did concern him.

“I think he tweaked it a little bit,” Malone said. “I fully expect Michael to be ready to go come Wednesday.”

Malone played Porter 13 minutes in the second half and 31 total, admitting after the game that the forward wasn’t moving well.

“Michael was out there trying to give us everything he could,” Malone said. “I just was concerned with the way he was moving out there, didn’t look right on either end of the floor — trying to run him off screens, trying to get him open knowing that we need his scoring punch.”

That’s a bad sign for a player whose NBA Draft stock in 2018 plummeted due to a back issue that required two surgeries.

Porter went from potential top overall pick to becoming Denver’s selection at 14th. Of course, Suns center Deandre Ayton was first off the board on draft day.

Porter’s availability and effectiveness against the Suns will be even more under the microscope moving forward, especially when looking at the Nuggets’ limited scoring capabilities after MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic.

While power forward Aaron Gordon scored 18, appearing pleased to punished Suns mismatches, Denver struggled to find hot offensive hands in its second half of Game 1.

Jokic finished the 122-105 loss with 22 points on 23 shots.

Point guard Facundo Campazzo put up 14 points, but he got little help from his backcourt mates. Starting guard Austin Rivers (7 points on 2-of-7 shooting) and sixth man Monte Morris (2 points on 1-of-10 shooting) didn’t have the same impact they did in the Nuggets’ first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Now down 0-1 to the Suns, Denver hopes a less-than-healthy Porter isn’t added to the list of concerns.


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