Nikola Jokic blazes, Denver doubles the lead against Phoenix
Waiting for the start of the other poster of the Western Conference semi-finals – Los…
Waiting for the start of the other poster of the Western Conference semi-finals – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors – Denver already has a foot in the next round. After their resounding victory in game 1 against Phoenix (125-107), Michael Malone’s players did it again Monday night in Colorado, in a more defensive style (97-87). But the 19,592 spectators at the Ball Arena still attended a recital, that of Nikola Jokic.
Author of a solid copy at the start of the series (24 points, 19 rebounds), the Serbian pivot had obviously been instructed to play his duel with Deandre Ayton, not known for his circle protection, as soon as possible. Message received five out of five by the reigning double MVP (39 points, 16 rebounds). In four minutes, the “Joker” already had two low post baskets and a long-range shot on the head of the pivot of the Suns (7-6, 4th).
The Ball Arena is the most impregnable venue in the NBA this season. The Nuggets have won 38 of their 45 matches there (34-7 in the regular season, 4-0 in the play-offs), or 84% success.
Paul comes out injured in the thigh
Reason for concern in Colorado before the series, the minutes without Jokic this time were fruitful. Bruce Brown, three points, and Jeff Green, author of the dunk of the evening on the head of Damion Lee, launched a “run” of the Nuggets once Jokic on the bench (26-21, 14th). The Serb resumed his work against Ayton but Phoenix turned in the lead, carried by Devin Booker (35 points, 6 ***ists).
The Suns even almost flew away in the third quarter. Chris Paul rewarded the men of Colorado three times with his “special”: taking a screen followed by a mid-distance shot (59-51, 31st). But the leader, still in search of his first NBA title, saw his bad luck in the play-offs catch up with him a few possessions later. On a rebound fight against Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, “CP3” injured his left thigh and left the field immediately.
His replacement Cameron Payne had an ordeal (2 points, 1 of 7 shooting, -17 differential) and Denver returned to contact at the start of the fourth quarter with an award-winning basket from Jeff Green (73-73, 39th) , before breaking on a rare basket from Jamal Murray (10 points, 3 out of 15 shooting!).
Well defended, Kevin Durant (24 points to 10 out of 27) chained missed shots, unlike Jokic who resumed his construction with two baskets while touching then another, countered too late by “KD” (86-81, 45th). A final award-winning basket from Caldwell-Pope then a mid-range shot from Murray then closed the deal (91-81, 46th). Back to the wall, Phoenix has four days to find solutions before Game 3 on Friday night, hoping to be able to count on Chris Paul.