The Denver Nuggets wasted no time in Game 6 against the Phoenix Suns and are now headed to their second Western Conference Finals appearance since 2020.
After going back and forth with Phoenix over the first nine minutes of the contest, Denver unleashed a 17-0 barrage over the last 2:46 of the opening quarter that proved to be the deciding stretch of the evening. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored nine of his 17 first quarter points during the Nuggets’ key run while Nikola Jokic contributed six and Jeff Green hit two free throws.
The first quarter closed with Denver up by 18 points, 44-26, and the outcome of the match would not come into doubt for the remainder of the evening. The Nuggets’ lead hit a high of 32 points in the second quarter and did not fall below 20 over the entire second half. They wound up taking an easy 125-100 win to take this best-of-seven affair in six games.
The Suns may have been shorthanded with starters Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton sidelined, but the sheer dominance of Denver in this closeout win was a reminder to the rest of the league that this team is a serious contender for this year’s title.
Jokic continued his strong postseason, leading the way for the Nuggets in the win with his fifth triple double in these playoffs. The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player tallied 32 points on 13-of-18 field goal shooting, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, three steals, and a block. Denver may have a solid supporting cast around Jokic, but his level of play, as evidenced by this series against Phoenix, ultimately decides the ceiling of this Denver team.
Meanwhile, Caldwell-Pope wound up scoring only four more points on the evening and finished with 21 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block. Jamal Murray contributed 26 points, four three-pointers, four rebounds, four assists, and four steals while Bruce Brown came off the bench to score 13.
What made Denver’s win even more impressive is that they managed to blowout the Suns despite starting forwards Michael Porter Jr. (10) and Aaron Gordon (8) combining for only 18 points on seven-of-17 shooting.
The Nuggets now await the winner of the other Western Conference Semifinal duel between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors–two teams that have eliminated them in recent history. Denver was eliminated by the Lakers in the 2020 Western Conference Finals while the Warriors booted them from the first round of last year’s postseason. On both occasions, the Lakers and Warriors coincidentally went on to win the NBA title.
This time around, this Nuggets team looks poised to reverse their fortunes and make their own push to win the NBA championship which would be the first in franchise history. Denver has been clicking on all cylinders throughout these playoffs and it is not unreasonable to consider this team as the favorite to win it all this season.