Nikola Jokic had 39 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Denver Nuggets to a 97-87 victory over Phoenix on Monday night, taking a 2-0 lead over the Suns in the Western Conference semifinals.
Jokic, who finds out Tuesday if he surpassed Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo for his third straight NBA MVP award, recently renamed Michael Jordan, scored 26 in the second half as the Nuggets erased a seven-point deficit in the third quarter. .
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Jokic’s big night was necessary as Jamal Murray scored just 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting after hitting 34 in the series opener when he had six 3-pointers. Murray was 0-for-9 from long range on Monday night.
Aaron Gordon added 16 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 14 points and was 4-for-4 from beyond the arc, including back-to-back snaps that erased a 73-70 deficit and put the Nuggets ahead for good early in the fourth quarter.
Devin Booker led Phoenix with 35 points and Kevin Durant added 24.
The teams get extended rest before the series resumes with Game 3 in Phoenix on Friday night.
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The Suns, who lost Chris Paul to a left groin strain late in the third quarter, took a 73-70 lead thanks to Booker’s 31 points, which matched Jokic’s production, entering the fourth quarter.
However, the Suns cooled off and Denver took a 76-73 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Caldwell-Pope, forcing a Phoenix timeout at 8:56.
After allowing Denver to take 17 more shots than in Game 1, the Suns turned the tables on Monday night, taking 15 more shots than the Nuggets in the first half but leading just 42-40 at halftime.
The Suns increased the lead to seven in the third quarter, but both Durant and Deandre Ayton caught their fourth foul late in the period, sat down, and Paul cautiously walked to the locker room at the 4:32 mark and did not return. .
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Suns: Phoenix held the Nuggets to their lowest-scoring first quarter of the entire season, holding them to 18 points. … The Suns didn’t take a free throw in the first half. … Paul finished with 8 points.
Nuggets: Jokic scored 11 of Denver’s first 14 points, but had only 13 at halftime. … The Nuggets had 68 points at halftime in the series opener, but made just 16 shots in the first half Monday night. … Murray went 1 for 7 from the floor before halftime and scored just 4 points before halftime.