Phoenix Suns: 3 Most Important Matchups vs Denver Nuggets

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges
Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Phoenix Suns need Mikal Bridges to slow down Michael Porter Jr.

As arguably the league’s most improved player this season, Michael Porter Jr. remains a looming threat likely to give Phoenix trouble along the wing. During round one against the Portland Trailblazers, Porter Jr. averaged 18.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor. While finishing off Portland during Game 6, Porter Jr. especially flashed his growth, going 6-for-7 from beyond the arc during the first quarter, tying an NBA record.

Mikal Bridges though has already established himself as Phoenix’s best wing defender, drawing assignments during the regular season such as Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, and Donovan Mitchell. With this acknowledged, it feels likely that to assume that Monty Williams will hand him the task of derailing the Porter Jr. steam engine once this series tips off.

Although Porter Jr. stands three inches taller Bridges, the former Wildcat can still cover more ground laterally with an incredible seven-foot wingspan, slightly longer than that of Porter Jr. This tool combined with his lateral quickness poises to offer him a good base to begin his defense on Porter Jr., who really possesses the ability to score at all three levels.

Beyond that though, Bridges needs to focus on fighting through screens while defending Porter Jr., who owns the fifth highest playoff percentile for points scored while coming off a screen. As an encouraging factor though, Bridges remains a very smart defender, often making the right decision to either switch off or pursue his man following a screen, setting him up well for combat against Porter Jr.

Offensively, Bridges quite frankly lacks the firepower frequently displayed by Porter Jr. However, Bridges flashed some steady improvements during Phoenix’s first round series, scoring 11.3 points per game during his team’s final three contests compared to his 7.3-point per game average during the three games prior. Porter Jr.’s defense has never been much to rave over, so expect Bridges to continue his offensive surge.