Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#657 Phoenix Suns vs.
#658 Denver Nuggets
Friday, June 11, 2021 at 10:00pm EDT
Pepsi Center, Denver
Written by Chris Kubala

A Western Conference semifinals series changes venue as we move from the Valley of the Sun to the Mile-High City. The second-seeded Phoenix Suns are on the road as they make the trip to face the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series Friday night. In Game 1 of the series Monday night, Phoenix pulled away down the stretch for a 122-105 home victory to draw first blood. Wednesday night, the Suns cruised to an easy 123-98 win to go up 2-0 in the series. In the all-time regular-season series, the Suns hold a 98-84 edge though the Nuggets took two of three this season. That includes a 120-112 double-overtime road win in the most recent matchup on January 23. In postseason meetings, the Suns have taken two of the three series and have an 8-3 edge in head-to-head playoff matchups. Will the Suns take a 3-0 stranglehold on the series or can Denver win at home to get back into it?

Phoenix Suns Seek 3-0 Series Edge

Phoenix ran their postseason win streak to five as they rolled to an easy victory in Game 2 of this series. The Suns now try to put the Nuggets in a 3-0 hole that no team has ever dug out of in NBA postseason history. In Game 2, Phoenix never trailed in the game as they controlled the contest pretty much from the opening tip. The Suns were up four after the opening quarter and by 10 at the half. Phoenix opened the second half with a 10-1 run in the opening two minutes to take a 62-43 lead and never looked back. The Suns shot 47.9% from the field, including 18 of 38 from three-point range, and held a 52-46 advantage on the glass in the game. Devin Booker led six Phoenix players in double figures with 18 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.

The Suns enter this contest 11th in scoring offense in the postseason with an average of 108.6 points per game. Phoenix stands tied for 5th in rebounding with an average of 43.4 boards a night while they are third by dishing out an average of 25.4 assists per contest. The Suns are first in the league in postseason scoring defense as they surrender only 98.5 points a night. Devin Booker leads the team in the playoffs by averaging 27.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and five assists a night. Deandre Ayton (16.3 points, 10.5 rebounds), Cameron Payne (11.1 points) and Jae Crowder (11.8 points) have been solid contributors offensively. Chris Paul (11.6 points, nine assists), Mikal Bridges (11.9 points), Cameron Johnson, Torrey Craig, Dario Saric and E’Twaun Moore all have the potential to have big nights as well. Phoenix is sixth in field goal percentage in the playoffs as they hit 47.2% from the floor as a team. The Suns are 9th by splashing an average of 12.6 three-pointers a night while they are seventh in three-point shooting by hitting 37.8% from beyond the arc in the postseason.

Denver Nuggets Trying to Get Back in Series

Denver failed to do much of anything with cohesion in Game 2 of the series as they were run into the ground by the Suns. The Nuggets now face a must-win situation as they hope to avoid a 3-0 series deficit. In Game 2, Denver never held the lead in the contest as they were unable to get anything going early on. The Nuggets trailed by four after the opening quarter and trailed by 10 at the half. In the opening minutes of the second half, Denver was blitzed by a 10-1 run to leave them down 19 and never drew closer than 15 the rest of the way. The Nuggets shot 40% from the field, including 14 of 43 from three-point range, and lost the rebounding battle 52-46. Nikola Jokic led Denver with 24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in the loss. Coach Michael Malone said that his team “quit” in Game 2 and had plenty to say after the contest.

In the playoffs, the Nuggets enter this contest fifth in the league in scoring offense with an average of 116 points per game. Denver is fourth in rebounding as they pull down 44.1 boards a night while ranking second in assists by dishing out 25.8 dimes a contest. The Nuggets are 12th in the postseason in scoring defense as they give up an average of 120.3 points a night. Nikola Jokic leads the team with 30.5 points plus 10.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists a night in the playoffs. Michael Porter Jr. contributes 17.4 points plus 6.6 boards a game while Aaron Gordon adds 12.4 points and 5.5 boards a contest. Monte Morris (12.1 points, 5.5 assists) and Facundo Campazzo (9.1 points, 4.9 assists) each are solid secondary scoring options. Michael Malone would like to get more from Paul Millsap, Austin Rivers (10.3 points), Markus Howard, Will Barton and JaMychal Green. Denver is eighth in the postseason in field goal percentage as they shoot 46.2% from the floor as a team. The Nuggets are fourth by draining 14.9 three-pointers per game while they are tied for fourth by shooting 38.8% from beyond the arc in the playoffs. PJ Dozier has missed the entire postseason as he recovers from an adductor strain. Jamal Murray was lost for the year after tearing his ACL against Golden State on April 12.

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This presents dire straits for the Nuggets, who can ill afford another dud that puts them down 3-0. That would be a death knell for Denver’s playoff hopes as we mentioned previously given that no team in NBA postseason history has rallied from that deep of a hole. Jokic earned the MVP award for his efforts during the regular season but the fact remains that he can’t carry the team on his own. Getting Barton back might help as he had 10 points in Game 2 but Porter Jr. was brutal shooting the ball, going three of 13 from the floor. The Nuggets do have the edge of playing at home, while the Suns went 2-1 on the road in their first-round matchup with the Lakers. With that said, their loss came in the first road game in that series. Malone gets his team ready to play and the Nuggets come up with a much-needed win to get back in the series, at least for one night.

Prediction: Denver Nuggets -1.5

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Denver finished the regular season 27th in the league in tempo with an average of 97.1 possessions per contest. That number actually dropped to 94.6 possessions a night in their series with Portland despite the high offensive numbers from both teams in the series. Phoenix was just ahead of the Nuggets in regular season tempo, ranking 26th by averaging 97.2 possessions per game. The Suns’ grind-it-out style was on full display in their first-round series with the Lakers as they averaged a measly 92.9 possessions per game. In the regular season, we saw the teams combine for 209, 256 and 232 points with one game going to overtime and a second contest going to double overtime. One of the two games in the series have gone over the mark, meaning six of the last eight matchups have gone over the total. Finding a way to crack the Suns’ defense and running the floor at altitude might be Denver’s best chance to get into the win column. Look for this one to wind up over the mark as well.

Prediction: Over 222.5
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Written By Chris Kubala , "Chris Kubala"

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