The Denver Nuggets fought hard in Game 3 but ultimately fell short, losing 121-114 to the Phoenix Suns in a high scoring affair.

Devin Booker led all scorers with 47 points, putting on a show throughout the game. He abused the Nuggets defense with elite shotmaking and decision making, dicing up every defender he saw in front of him.

Not to be outdone, Nikola Jokić put together another historic stat line, posting 30 points, 17 rebounds, and 17 assists, the first time in NBA playoff history that a 25-15-15 game has ever been done.

Unfortunately, Jokić didn’t have enough guys going with him tonight. Michael Porter Jr. made 6-of-10 threes and posted 21 points and 12 rebounds. Jamal Murray had 32 points, but his shot efficiency took another dip at 13-of-29, and he missed multiple shots down the stretch that could have put the Nuggets up for good.

Off the bench, Denver’s reserves struggled for the first time this series. Jeff Green was a minus-20 in his 14 minutes, struggling to handle the size/physicality of Jock Landale and the dynamic scoring of Booker and Kevin Durant. Bruce Brown was decent but missed a couple of late opportunities. Christian Braun committed five fouls playing the same level of physical defense he played in the first two games, but the rookie whistle wasn’t kind.

The Nuggets have some things to figure out after this game. It isn’t panic time, but they will need to be more precise heading into Game 4 on Sunday.

Here are my takeaways from the Nuggets matchup with the Suns in Phoenix for Game 3:

Nuggets third quarter run makes it a game

Through the first half, the Nuggets just could not keep pace with some of the shots the Suns were hitting. Devin Booker was ridiculous, and it was his performance in the first half that put the Nuggets at a major deficit. The Nuggets trailed 67-52 at halftime, and many believed Denver would just punt on the game and prepare for Game 4.

Then the third quarter happened, and the Nuggets made it a game. A 36-23 third quarter advantage cut the Suns lead down to just two points heading into the final frame. Jokić’s passing set the table for everybody, and all three of Murray, Gordon, and Porter made shots to cut down the Suns margin.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be in the fourth quarter. The Suns made the shots they needed to make at that point, and the Nuggets missed some wide open shots that they simply had to hit in order to cement a comeback. Denver had their chances and nearly made it happen, but too many turnovers and runouts for the Suns made it insurmountable.

Still, it was good to see the Nuggets show up in the manner that they did and not simply roll over. Denver’s ability to

Sometimes, the opponent just makes shots

Game 2 was such an aberration for the Suns and Nuggets on a number of levels. The Suns are very rarely bothered by contests from the opposition, and the Nuggets haven’t developed an elite reputation as a defensive team. When the Nuggets held the Suns to 87 points, it took everybody by surprise.

Going home, the Suns role players were going to play better, there’s no doubt about that. Without Chris Paul, Cameron Payne stepped into the starting lineup and made some plays. Terrence Ross hit a three-pointer off the bench. The other role players grabbed offensive rebounds and hustled around the stars, who each played really well.

Devin Booker was unbelievable in this game, leading things off with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting in the first quarter alone. He didn’t get to the free throw a ton, but his shotmaking was at his highest level of the playoffs so far. Booker’s ability to attack the gaps in the defense, break down the opposition 1-on-1, and even create space in the pick and roll are all at the highest level. Booker finished with 47 points and nine assists in his 42 minutes, shooting an insane 20-of-25 from the field and carrying the Suns in a big way.

Kevin Durant made his living at the free throw line in this game, going 12-of-12 on free throws in the first half alone. He made more shots in the second half, but the Nuggets did a good job defending him for the most part when they didn’t commit fouls. Aaron Gordon continues to be fantastic in that regard, but Durant still got his tonight: 39 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

Denver’s shot distribution was too Murray centric

Jamal Murray had 32 points and was mostly good tonight, but it took him 29 shots to get there. Michael Porter Jr. made his shots tonight by going 6-of-10 from three, and Nikola Jokić had 30 points with an absurd 17 assists!

Denver’s formula was really good offensively for the most part, but the one caveat there was that Murray probably took too many shots. While playing 41 minutes, Murray lost some energy throughout the game and couldn’t get his shots to drop in the fourth quarter. He spent a lot of time dribbling out possessions, trying to string out the defense but running down the shot clock in the process. Murray missed the important shots in the fourth that could have put Denver up, and with Booker and Durant playing their best basketball on the other side, it was a noticeable dip from Murray.

If the Nuggets are going to win this series, they need a more efficient version of Murray. He has to set the table for Jokić when he has as much of an advantage as he does against Deandre Ayton and Jock Landale. Murray made some plays tonight for sure, but the Nuggets may need to redistribute the shots a bit to be their most efficient selves going forward.

The Nuggets probably weren’t going to sweep the Suns. That was always going to be a difficult proposition, even if it was a distinct possibility heading into the weekend. Denver had their shot in Game 3, but it took 86 combined points from Booker and Durant to keep the Nuggets at bay.

Game 4 is going to be a war. There’s a massive difference between heading home up 3-1 versus heading home tied 2-2 having lost the previous two games. Booker and Durant figured some things out in this game, and the Nuggets didn’t have a lot of answers this time around. Can they find those answers in Game 4 on Sunday?

We will just have to wait and see.

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