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The Phoenix Suns are heading home to host the Denver Nuggets in Game Six Thursday night, trailing 3-2 in their series and just one loss away from elimination.
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The Nuggets dominated Game Five from the onset and would have won by even more than they did had their offense not completely stalled out in the second quarter. Regardless, they won the third quarter 35-29 and were able to coast through the fourth quarter, especially once Monty Williams hooked his starters and began early preparations for Game Six.
Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray tortured the Suns' defense with their constant pick-and-rolls, and quite frankly, it doesn’t seem as if there’s a coverage Phoenix can play to stop them—they just don’t have the proper personnel. Devin Booker could not be Superman for the first time in the series and the playoffs as a whole, and the bench regressed from its Game Four performance just as expected.
Kevin Durant was inefficient once again, scoring 26 points on 42/0/66 shooting splits. Denver has stolen from the Boston Celtics in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs last year and played Durant physically and sent double-teams his way, which has caused him to be extremely uncomfortable. The Suns had only lost one game with Durant in the lineup prior to this series, which they trail 3-2.
Booker led the Suns once again in scoring with 28 points, and although he made 4-7 threes, he was 8-19 from the field. He also appeared to turn his ankle, and although he did not exit the game, he was seen grimacing several times throughout the remainder of the game and did not have his jumper working like he had the entire postseason.
On the opposite end, Denver received contributions from everyone. Michael Porter Jr. kickstarted the game with four first-quarter threes en route to 19 points and 18 rebounds, while the pairing of Jokic (29 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists) and Murray (19 points, six assists, five rebounds) powered them during their explosive runs. Bruce Brown also came up with 25 massive points off the bench and cemented the game as a blowout in the second half.
The Suns finished the game shooting 43% from the field, 33% from three, and 71% at the charity stripe, all of which are too poor to contend with a finely-tuned Nuggets team. They also lost the rebounding battle and committed more fouls than Denver, which gave them extra possessions that they did not need (in the Suns’ eyes).
The Suns won their two home games in the series because of the incandescent shooting performance by Devin Booker and important bursts of scoring by Durant. Their bench also played a significant role but cannot be counted upon in this or any other series in this playoffs, simply because it isn’t good enough.
The Nuggets have been much more convincing in their wins than the Suns have. Their average margin of victory in wins is 14.7, whereas the Suns’ is six, and they also have not won a game by more than seven points. They will be in big trouble if they continue to let the Nuggets hang around as they have previously, especially now that Booker showed his mortality.
Phoenix is trapped in a corner and is going to come out throwing haymakers in Game Six. Chris Paul may be coming back after dealing with groin tightness, though the impact of his return is in question. The Suns were 0-2 in the series with Paul in the lineup and were playing much slower on offense, which allowed Denver, a poor defensive team in the regular season, to get set on defense.
The Suns will win Game Six if, as has been the case for every game in this series, they are powered by historic offensive performances from Booker and Durant. Anything less and the drop-off in overall team talent will be noticeable and the Nuggets will advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The Nuggets need to play with the same energy and urgency that they have at home, and if they do that, they have a very strong chance of defying the odds to win the series in six games. Jokic brought his A-Game to Phoenix last time when he dropped 53 points, and he does not want to have to go seven games against a team with two lethal scorers on the other side.
The Nuggets moneyline is the best player for Game Six. This line is available at plus-money and is for the team that has proven to be superior throughout this series, even in losses. A win will put them through to the conference finals for the first time since 2020 with a great chance to make the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
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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.More info on Grant Mitchell
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