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
Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Another big challenge for the Phoenix Suns and Deandre Ayton

Although the injury woes primarily endured by Anthony Davis certainly played a role, Deandre Ayton nonetheless outperformed every Laker big during their first round series, stepping up despite all the difficult matchups thrown his way. But now an even more intimidating challenge awaits, perhaps the greatest thus far during his young career.

Unless you live under a rock, you know what kind of season Denver big man Nikola Jokic is having. Soon to be crowned league MVP according to Vegas, Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 8.3 assists, and 10.3 rebounds per game during the regular season. But clearly with a lot still left in the tank, Jokic has only expanded on his excellence this postseason, scoring 33.0 points per game during round one.

But Ayton last saw Jokic and the Nuggets nearly half a year ago, with their last two games coming one after the other in late January, both ending up as overtime victories for Denver. Although the Joker got the last laugh during those contests, Ayton performed sufficiently against him, averaging 22.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game to Jokic’s 30.0-point and 16.0-rebound averages.

Jokic still outplayed Ayton, but the former Wildcat held his own. More encouragingly though, we know Ayton’s presence indeed effects Jokic, with the Serbian big’s true shooting percentage against the Suns this year standing at 51.8% with Ayton on the floor, opposed to 75.8% without. With this acknowledged, expect Ayton to play big minutes during this game, likely only grabbing some bench when Jokic does as well.