It must hurt to be a Phoenix Suns fan right now. For the second-straight time, they’ve had to endure an embarrassing defeat at home in an elimination game. After Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks did it last year, another European in Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets to a dominant 125-100 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
It all started in the first quarter, where the Nuggets used a 17-0 run to close out the period and push their lead to 18 points. Things only got worse from there, as the lead ballooned to 81-51 by the time the halftime whistle was blown.
Jokic, Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope combined for 59 points in that first half, with the Suns’ defense having absolutely no answer for them. Denver’s defense played a big part too, as they forced eight turnovers that led to 16 points.
Outside of Cameron Payne, who shot 7 of 8 in the first half, there was no one else scoring for the Suns. Kevin Durant and Devin Booker combined for 19 points in the first half and shot 6 of 23 overall.
The Suns tried to get back into the game in the second half and started with an 11-4 run in the third quarter but never really gained a full head of steam. They were still behind 103-76 heading into the fourth quarter.
The absence of Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton certainly didn’t help the Suns’ cause. The question now becomes whether or not they can add meaningful contributors to their bench in the offseason as they’ve now seen the kind of damage that can be done to them due to their weak bench.
Of course, the defeat has gotten Durant’s hater’s attention.
Some may argue that Durant doesn’t deserve all the blame, but he’s the one who forced a move from the Brooklyn Nets, who were rolling before Durant hurt his knee again. That injury led to a cascading disaster for the Nets, who ended up trading both Durant and Kyrie Irving before the All-Star break. That cost the Suns Mikal Bridges, whose wing defense they sorely missed against the Nuggets. The ‘Hardest Road’ volume II hasn’t turned out so well for the Slim Reaper, and one has to wonder if he’ll again ask to be shipped off somewhere else if the Suns don’t do well next season either. With Paul only getting older, along with Ayton continuing to show discontent, the core four may not even see a full season together next year.
Booker will also be smarting, considering that he loves talking shit when up. For the third year in a row, he’s watched his title hopes evaporate at the hands of a European superstar. As talented as he is, Booker now has earned the tag of a big stage choker.