Game: Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets
Time: 10:00 p.m.
Odds: Suns +4.5, Nuggets -4.5
Even Nikola Jokic, the two-time league MVP and star of the Denver Nuggets, admitted that teammate Jamal Murray is the go-to guy for Denver this playoff season. The Nuggets defeated the Phoenix Suns 125-107 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Murray scored 34 points, including six three-pointers to propel Denver to a Game 1 victory.
The Nuggets, the top seed in the conference, will attempt to go to Phoenix up 2-0 by defeating the visiting Suns in Game 2 tonight. With multiple 50-point performances to lead Denver to the Western Conference Finals in the 2020 Orlando bubble, Murray established his playoff reputation. In this postseason—his first since that run three years ago—he has once again emerged as the team’s driving force.
He led the Nuggets to a relatively easy victory on Saturday night and is now averaging 28.3 points per game in the postseason. Jokic, the team’s leading scorer in the regular season and the two-time defending league MVP, is averaging 25.8 points a game for the playoffs. Murray has 34 or more points in three of the Nuggets six playoff games this season.
Murray isn’t the only one playing well for Denver. In addition to Bruce Brown’s 14 points off the bench, Aaron Gordon, who was given the defensive assignment to guard Kevin Durant, scored 23 points in Game 1. Jokic had 24 points and 19 rebounds, but his 42.9 percent (9-for-21) shooting was out of the ordinary for him.
Although Devin Booker (27 points) and Durant (29 points, 14 rebounds) played well, Phoenix will need to make changes for Game 2. The Suns struggled despite center Deandre Ayton’s 14 points and seven rebounds, as they committed 16 turnovers, including seven by Kevin Durant.
The Suns must also devise a strategy to stop Murray. In Game 1, contesting shots wasn’t a problem, but Phoenix somehow has to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible. The Phoenix bench must also contribute more. With seven points, Jock Landale led that group, but some of those came after the game was decided. Although there are three rest days before Game 3 in Phoenix on Friday, the starters played a significant amount of time and will probably do the same tonight.
Game 1 went Over the total, which is something that is trending for both teams. In each team’s last five games, the Over has hit in four. In the last seven Suns-Nuggets games, the Over has cashed five times. The Over has also hit in 10 of the Suns last 12 games on the road. In the last ten games against each other, the two teams have averaged 229.7 points.
Phoenix has not been strong against the number. The Suns are 3-6 ATS in their last nine games and 1-4 ATS in their last five against Denver. The Nuggets are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games.
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