Chris Paul picks apart Nuggets once again, as Suns roll in Game 2



Déjà vu from another Chris Paul takeover swamped Phoenix Suns Arena at this point, maybe as the crescendo to a 123-98 triumph over the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday.

All night, Paul surveyed, diagnosed, and attacked Denver’s weaknesses to finish with 17 points, 15 assists, and no turnovers as the trigger to the Suns burning the Nuggets for their most lopsided loss of the season; a defeat that coach Michael Malone labeled “embarrassing.”

“I saw one team that wanted to be here, and played with a purpose and urgency, and one team that did not want to be here, and played with no urgency,” Malone said. “That’s why we got our ass kicked.”

Let’s not forget or rub off Paul’s role in that, or Phoenix’s defense, which gave Denver fits.

With 3:30 left in the third quarter and Nikola Jokic arguing for a foul, Jae Crowder snagged a rebound and led a 5-on-4 fast break that Phoenix converted with a Mikal Bridges slam to increase its advantage to 20 points.
The most fight Denver displayed all evening was Aaron Gordon’s pushing match with Crowder at the 7:24 mark of the third quarter, which resulted in a double-technical penalty.
That’s the kind of night Phoenix sent up to the Nuggets.

“It was a team effort once again,” Paul said in his postgame interview on the court. “We knew how important this game was. We just wanted to maintain homecourt advantage and get the win.”

Mission accomplished.

Now, Denver must find a way to pick up the pieces after falling behind 2-0 in Game 3 at Ball Arena on Friday, since it is brutally evident that Jokic cannot do it all alone.

Jokic had a game-high 24 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists, but the Denver supporting cast didn’t accomplish much.

Michael Porter Jr., the second-leading scorer, suffered a back ailment in Game 1 that significantly hampered his performance in Game 2. Porter finished the game with a team-worst minus-26, shooting 3-for-13 from the field and 2-for-9 from long range for 11 points as Paul and the Suns capitalized on the forward’s restricted mobility.

Over the last three games, Paul has carved up opponents for 38 assists with just two turnovers.

“Just reading the game man. Just finding open guys, picking my spots,” Paul said. “We’ve got an unbelievable team in the way that we’ve got shooters.”