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Nuggets open as slim betting favorites over Suns for Game 3

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots over Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during Game 1 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Monday, June 7, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

While the Phoenix Suns have blown the doors off the Denver Nuggets to take a 2-0 Western Conference Semifinals series lead, the No. 2 seed isn’t the favorite for Game 3.

Denver opened as a 1.5-point favorite as the series heads to the Mile High City on Friday.

If it holds until lines are locked, it will continue a six-year streak where the Nuggets were favored over the Suns in games at Ball Arena.

Plus, Denver has won in eight of its last 10 hostings of Phoenix.

But the Suns are on a 5-0 playoff winning streak, including their three straight victories to conclude the first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers. They have also gone 5-0 against the spread over that span.

Over the first two games of this second-round series, Phoenix has defeated Denver by 17 and 25 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively.

Will the altitude and home crowd make a difference after Nuggets head coach Michael Malone called out his team following Game 2?

And can Nuggets center Nikola Jokic lift his team like the MVP he is? Jokic will be presented his MVP trophy before Game 3.

Regardless of how he’s fared against Phoenix center Deandre Ayton by averaging 23 points on relatively poor shooting 19-of-40 — that 48% is well below the 56% he shot this regular season — it’s not debatable how little help he’s received.

A big question for Game 3 is whether Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. will be improved after playing through a back injury in Game 2. He shot 3-of-13 from the field and scored 11 points in 28 minutes on Wednesday.

The Nuggets did get a slight boost from wing Will Barton, who returned from a hamstring injury on a minutes restriction in Game 2 to score 10 points and dish out three assists in 16 minutes.

The Suns, meanwhile, enter the game in good shape health-wise. Point guard Chris Paul scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting and dished out 15 assists without a turnover as Phoenix took a two-game lead in the series, leading teammate Devin Booker to issue this postgame: “He’s back, and he’s feeling it.”


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