NBA: Nuggets thrash Suns in Western Conference semi-final opener
Denver’s two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic scored 24 points and grabbed 19 rebounds as six Nuggets players scored in double-digits to give the top seeds a convincing victory against the potentially explosive Suns.
Jokic had even gone so far as to say the Suns could be considered favorites in the series, and Phoenix looked dangerous as they connected on 66.7% of their shots from the field in a nip-and-tuck first quarter that featured 14 lead changes.
They led by one heading into the second period, but the Nuggets inexorably took control to lead 68-51 at halftime.
Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon showed out in Game 1 ⛏️
Joker: 24 PTS, 19 REB, 5 AST
AG: 23 PTS, 6 REB, 69% FG
— NBA (@NBA) April 30, 2023
Denver responded to every run the Suns produced and Phoenix — led by led by 29 points from two-time NBA champion Durant and with 27 from Devin Booker — didn’t get the deficit below 10 points in the second half.
With five minutes remaining, Phoenix waved the white flag and pulled their stars.
Deandre Ayton scored 14 points and Chris Paul had 11 for the Suns, but Denver had 16 three-pointers to Phoenix’s seven and scored 18 points off 16 Suns turnovers.
Murray drained back-to-back three-pointers to launch a 14-0 fourth quarter run that carried the Nuggets to a 120-95 lead.
It was more than a glimpse of the form Murray flashed before missing all of last season because of a torn left knee ligament suffered in April of 2021 — and the 26-year-old was delighted to be back in action after missing the last two post-seasons.
“It’s good to play at the most valuable time of the year and make an impact,” he told broadcaster TNT.
Denver, who improved to 38-7 at home in the regular season and playoffs, host game two of the best-of-seven series on Monday.