Suns falter in 4th, lose Game 2 in Denver

Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant, fright, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets guard...
Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant, fright, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets guard Christian Braun, center, and center Nikola Jokic, left, defend in the first half of Game 2 of an NBA second-round playoff series Monday, May 1, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)(David Zalubowski | AP)
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 9:20 PM MST|Updated: May. 1, 2023 at 9:33 PM MST
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DENVER, CO (3TV/CBS 5) — The Phoenix Suns struggled in the fourth quarter and fell to the Denver Nuggets 97-87 on Monday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals. Nuggets are up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is Friday in Phoenix. Devin Booker had 35 points on 14-29 shooting.

Nikola Jokic had 39 points and 16 rebounds for Denver. Jokic, who learns Tuesday if he’s edged Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo for his third consecutive NBA MVP award, recently renamed for Michael Jordan, scored 26 in the second half as the Nuggets erased a seven-point third-quarter deficit.

Jokic’s big night was necessary as Jamal Murray scored just 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting after he scored 34 in the series opener when he had six 3-pointers. Murray was 0 for 9 from long-range Monday night.

Denver outscored 27-14 in the final quarter to seal the win. Phoenix started 0-9 in the fourth quarter before Kevin Durant made a 17-foot turnaround fadeaway with 8:09 left. The Suns never got their rhythm and saw their lead slip away.

Durant was awful from 3, shooting only 2-12, and finished with 24 points and eight rebounds.

The Suns’ bench failed to show up and didn’t help Booker and Durant at all. Cameron Payne shot 1-7 and had a plus-minus of -16. Damion Lee played 25 minutes and had zero points.

Suns had an 11-3 run in the third to push their lead to 59-51, their largest of the game at the time. Chris Paul got hurt and went to the locker room with 4:31 left in the third. He appeared to injure his groin while going for a rebound. Jokic scored the Nuggets’ last nine points of the third, and they were down three. Both Deandre Ayton and Durant picked up their fourth fouls.

The Suns missed 11 of 12 to start the second quarter. A 14-3 run in the quarter pushed Denver’s lead to 30-24. Booker put an end to the bleeding with a 15-foot pull-up jumper. The Suns had nine offensive rebounds in the half, compared to Denver’s zero, leading to eight second-chance points. The Suns still only shot 35% in the half.

The Suns held the Nuggets to only 18 points in the first quarter, their lowest point total in a quarter all season. Jamal Murray was scoreless, while Jokic had 11. The Suns shot only 37% from the field, including eight straight missing from 3. Booker had seven points in the quarter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.