After grabbing a brief 10-point lead in the third quarter, the Denver Nuggets appeared to have a chance to win Game 1, but the wheels have come off on both ends of the court since then. The Nuggets have been unable to recover after the Suns went on a 16-0 run in the third quarter to seize control of the game.
They never exhibited the same fight in Game 2 as they did in the opening, eventually losing 123-98 after trailing by only 10 points at halftime. They couldn’t buy a chance on offense, as the four starters who weren’t Nikola Jokic combined for 26 points, while the MVP had 24. Phoenix, on the other hand, seemed to be able to get whatever shot they wanted, whenever they wanted it, as Chris Paul tugged the strings all night to get the Suns fantastic looks, scoring 17 points and dishing out 15 assists while committing no mistakes.
Following the game, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone was unflinching in his assessment of his team’s effort, calling it “embarrassing” and saying that he thought his team had given up.
He wasn’t alone in his assessment, as Charles Barkley and the Inside the NBA team chastised the Nuggets for not being ready for Game 2 after Game 1’s outcome.
Will Barton revealed that things were said in what was unsurprisingly a furious locker room when Aaron Gordon spoke up after Game 1 and called the team out, but he believes it was ultimately what the team needed to hear.
All of this is to argue that if the Nuggets don’t find a higher level of effort, let alone a higher level of play, in Game 3, they’ll be eliminated by a Suns club that doesn’t play with its food. With their Game 5 and Game 6 performances against the injured Lakers, Phoenix has demonstrated their propensity to go for the kill when they scent blood in the water, and they’re doing the same thing against a listless Denver squad right now.