The Denver Nuggets matchup against the Phoenix Suns was funky before the game even tipped off.
After a kerfuffle ensued in the first quarter against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, the league office alerted the Nuggets that Nikola Jokic would be suspended without pay for leaving the immediate vicinity of the bench when the altercation took place. Because of his suspension, Jokic was not available to play against the Suns. Inversely, the Suns were without four players as well. T.J. Warren, De’Anthony Melton, Deandre Ayton and Richaun Holmes were all out for a plethora of reasons. In summation, the Nuggets were without their best player and Phoenix was missing three of their best four players which usually equates to not just a sloppy game, but a blowout as well.
That is exactly what transpired as the Nuggets blitzed the Suns in the second half to improve their record to 32-15 thanks to their 132-95 win over Phoenix.
The first quarter was a slaughtering for the first six minutes as the Nuggets were able to execute extremely well offensively and were suffocating the Suns on defense. Then, the Nuggets just stopped playing defense. They began to get complacent which allowed the Suns to climb back into the game.
After the first 12 minutes of the game, the Nuggets allowed the Suns to score 32 points on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has implored his team to get back to their strong defensive habits and to take control of games in the first quarter, but against the Suns, Denver did not deliver. Still, the Nuggets lead 37-32 after the first frame.
In the second quarter, the Nuggets offense continued to hum while their defense continued to falter. Their defense continued to struggle so badly that the Suns tied the game at 47 points with 6:40 left before halftime in a game that the Suns had no business winning.
The Nuggets, after allowing the Suns to tie the game, went on a 7-0 run to regain the lead and control of the game, but then, just as the Nuggets were finally getting healthy, Jamal Murray turned his ankle with just over three minutes left before lifetime and ad to come out of the game. He did go back to the locker room to be looked at, but ended up starting the second half.
After the first two quarters, the Nuggets carried a 70-55 lead thanks to a 23-8 run to finish out the first half.
The third quarter is when the Nuggets decided to take control of the game and end it early. They came out aggressive, assertive, and with intent which led to them taking their 15-point halftime lead and extend it as high as 22 points. Once the third quarter ended, the Nuggets carried a 98-81 lead into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was a mere formality as the Nuggets kept a strangle hold on their 20+ point lead. There was one cool moment as Jarred Vanderbilt, who had been out all season as he rehabbed back from foot surgery, made his long-awaited debut. In his four minutes, he finished with two points, three rebounds, one assist, and one steal including a beautiful one-handed three-quarter pass to Beasley for a bucket. Simply put, Vanderbilt was awesome.
Once the game mercifully ended, the Nuggets had won by a score of 132-95.
When the final buzzer sounded, Mason Plumlee led the Nuggets to another home win. He finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. Paul Millsap also had a strong game with 20 points, nine rebounds, and three steals. For the Suns, Devin Booker finished with 35 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field.
Next, the Nuggets will stay in Denver and finish up their back-to-back on Saturday night when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers at 7pm MST in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center.