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Nuggets vs Suns Game 1 Predictions: Fighting for a Spot in the Conference Finals

Written by: Grant Mitchell
Updated April 29, 2023
11 min read
  • Denver and Phoenix both won their first-round series in five games
  • The Nuggets had the best regular-season record and second-best home record in the West
  • The Suns’ offense has been superb in the playoffs, but their lack of depth is concerning

The Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns are set to tangle in Denver Saturday in the first game of the Western Conference semifinals. 

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Nuggets vs Suns Game One Odds

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Nuggets vs Suns Predictions

Nuggets vs Suns Game One Preview

The Nuggets headline a short list of teams in the NBA that have never participated in the NBA Finals. They have a golden opportunity to do just that this season but must get past the Suns, whom many experts and oddsmakers have as the favorites in the Western Conference. Notably, Denver and Phoenix split their season series two games apiece. 

Denver plays a great brand of team-first basketball. Reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic runs a majority of the offense and is a problem stylistically for almost all opponents since opposing centers need to pick him up once he crosses halfcourt. The Nuggets do not play a ton of defense, however, which has frustrated Head Coach Mike Malone to the point that he has said he will sign anybody who tries to guard opponents.

The Suns are not a defensive juggernaut but have shown more intensity than Denver in the playoffs. Their main issue is that they played their stars (Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Chris Paul) heavy minutes in the first round because of their lack of production off the bench. The fatigue they accumulated and will continue to gather may not come to matter in this series but will bite them at some point in the playoffs.

Denver Nuggets Team Preview

The Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in five games in the opening round. Jamal Murray (27.2 points, 6.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds) was the leading scorer and shot 42.9% from three-point territory, while Jokic (26.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 9.0 assists) was the table-setter. Murray has a history of elevating his play in the postseason, most famously when he had two 50-point games in a seven-game series against the Utah Jazz.

Michael Porter Jr. also had a great first round, averaging 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds on 42.4% shooting from downtown. The Suns are extremely explosive on offense but prefer to deal a majority of their damage from the mid-range, so Porter Jr.’s ability to hit timely threes will be pivotal.

The Nuggets took a step forward defensively in the first round. Granted, they were playing against a very inconsistent Timberwolves team, but they produced the sixth-best defensive rating of the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs. They will have a much harder test going against a Suns team that can score from anywhere.

Phoenix Suns Team Preview

The Suns lost Game One to the Los Angeles Clippers but went on to rip off four straight and move into the next round. Booker (37.2 points, 6.4 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.6 steals) had a series to remember and was completely unguardable, while Durant (228.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists) was a model of efficiency and attracted a majority of the defensive attention that freed up Booker.

On the downside, Booker and Durant both played north of 43 minutes per night, while Paul (13.6 points, 8.2 assists, 6.0 rebounds) was just shy of 39 per night. Players not in the starting five also combined to score just 14.6 points per night, which was less than 12% of the team’s total scoring output. That narrows the margin of error significantly if one of the stars is having an off night.

The Suns are going to spend a lot of time targeting Jokic defensively. He did not become a two-time MVP on the strength of his defense and will be a problem whenever he is switched onto a perimeter player in the pick-and-roll or when playing drop coverage and giving up the mid-range.

Nuggets vs Suns Game One Pick

There is logic to both sides of the argument. The Suns are already on fatigued legs and have to play at altitude, where the Nuggets were 34-7 during the regular season. On the flip side, Denver is not ready to match up with the Suns defensively, and the two games it lost during the regular season were both after Durant was added to the lineup. Their bench scoring (20.6 points per game) is also better than Phoenix’s but still not enough to be the reason they win the series.

The best pick for Game One is the Suns’ moneyline. They are hot right now and will continue to be early in the playoffs, even if their long-term durability is a concern. 

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How to Watch Nuggets vs Suns Game One

  • Where: Ball Arena, Denver, CO
  • When: 8:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 29
  • TV: TNT
  • Streaming: YouTube TV, Hulu, Sling, etc.
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Grant Mitchell

548 Articles

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.

In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.

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