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Suns-Nuggets Game 3 preview: Phoenix puts Denver in danger zone

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns slam dunks the ball against the Denver Nuggets during the first half in Game Two of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Phoenix Suns Arena on June 09, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

There is shattered glass below the Denver Nuggets’ “break in case of emergency” case for the panic button.

And while the Nuggets have some issues to work through down 2-0 to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals, their biggest problem is how the Suns are playing.

To steal a turning point previously used in this space, since the second half of Game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix has 120 assists and 38 turnovers.

The offense is fully flowing. Even in possessions like this one from Game 2 that should fall apart on a few different occasions, the Suns are still producing good looks.

The adjustments we went over for Denver ahead of Game 2 were not there in any form or fashion. At halftime, it looked like the Nuggets tried to switch up their coverages, and it made things even worse.

In the early third quarter, Bridges got an open 3 in the same spot on the floor three separate times over the course of 90 seconds.

Denver head coach Michael Malone spoke about preventing corner 3s both after Game 1 and before Game 2. After allowing 14 on Monday, it was still a high number of 10 for the Suns in Wednesday’s win.

And the Nuggets have got another thing to worry about: Chris Paul’s midrange game looking as alive as ever.

Before Paul eviscerated Denver wing Michael Porter Jr. on switches in the fourth quarter, he saw Nikola Jokic giving him space to dribble into around the screen. This turned into a full-fledged drop off Paul in the second half, which appeared to be one of those halftime tweaks, but it’s hard to tell given how poor Denver’s execution was.

Regardless, the most important aspect of it was that Paul was taking those middies with the same rhythm and touch we’re used to seeing before the right shoulder injury was really bothering him.

The Nuggets now have to consider trapping Paul or at least bottling him once he gets close to the paint. That second clip where Paul is able to glide across the free-throw line before getting to his leaner would be the one for Denver to worry about. Yes, that was Porter’s fault too, so, yeah.

Defensively is where the Nuggets can get back in the series. Offensively, it’s just holding onto hope that the supporting cast outside of Jokic can hit shots, a task that got even more difficult after Porter tweaked his back in Game 1.

Facundo Campazzo, Austin Rivers and Monte Morris are a combined 12-for-45 (26.6%) in the two games.

A lot of those have been decent looks, ones that are going to start to fade as the Suns get more locked in defensively game-to-game.

By the second half on Wednesday, they were flying around. There are a half-dozen efforts you can point out in this one possession below.

Bridges’ closeout on Jokic, Deandre Ayton containing Porter’s drive, Devin Booker’s closeout on Campazzo, Jae Crowder’s switch on Jokic, Crowder’s fronting of Jokic and Ayton getting back toward Jokic for the rebound. See? A half-dozen!

The Nuggets will need to start off fast on Friday, using that vibe created by the crowd after Jokic is awarded his MVP trophy. In both games, the Suns have had average first halves and Denver hasn’t been able to penalize Phoenix for it.

As long as the Suns keep playing the way they have the last week, that’s a requirement for Denver on Friday if they’re going to have any shot.


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