Coach Michael Malone of the Denver Nuggets did not like what he saw in his team’s most recent losses, in which they allowed Phoenix to score 121 and 129 points, and he specifically made an effort to concentrate on stopping the Suns on Tuesday.
He credited an improved defensive performance for the outcome of their National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference semi-final victory in Denver, which was 118-102.
“We didn’t play any defence in the two games we lost in Phoenix,” Malone said.
“When we’re not running, and we’re not defending, we’re going nowhere. And that’s what we’ll have to do in Game 6 if we’re going to close this series out.”
In the Nuggets’ triumph, which gave them a 3-2 series lead, Bruce Brown scored 25 points off the bench while Nikola Jokic recorded a triple-double with 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.
Each of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. contributed 19 points, and Aaron Gordon added 10.
In Phoenix, Game 6 will be played on Thursday night.
Devin Booker scored 28 points, Kevin Durant had 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Deandre Ayton contributed 14 points and 9 rebounds for the Suns.
Denver gained the upper hand in a tense third quarter after a competitive first half. With a 17-4 run to start the second half, the Nuggets took the lead 69-53 and kept extending it. They entered the fourth quarter with a 91-74 advantage before going on an instant run to virtually put the game away.
The Suns gave it their all, scoring six straight baskets to close the gap to 18, but Brown hit two free throws, Murray sank a 13-footer, and Christian Braun had a steal and a layup with 7 minutes, 48 seconds remaining to make it 104-80.
After that, Booker made a three-pointer, but Jokic passed to Gordon for an alley-oop slam, giving him his tenth assist of the evening and fourth postseason triple-double.
The Suns’ coach, Monty Williams, expressed displeasure with his team’s third-quarter play and said it was the cause of their defeat.
Nikola Jokic becomes the 4th player in Playoff history to record 4 triple-doubles in the first 10 games of a postseason, joining:
Wilt Chamberlain (6 in 1967)
Magic Johnson (4 in 1980 and 5 in 1982)
Oscar Robertson (4 in 1963) pic.twitter.com/rl4oAXSt32
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) May 10, 2023
“It was like nothing we’ve put on the floor this year from our standards,” he lamented.
“We stood still and didn’t move them around enough.
“I felt we were somewhat stagnant.
“We’ve got to meet the challenge with the physicality.”
However, Booker seemed unfazed by the loss and stated that they will start over to get ready for Game 6.
“I love it. Every game has its own character. Every game is its own movie, its own different preparation and everything to go with it,” he said.
“We’re going watch over film, see how we can be better for Game 6.” AFP, REUTERS