Phoenix Suns: 3 Takeaways From Game 1 Victory vs Denver Nuggets

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Phoenix Suns Game 1 Takeaway: Game tempo is critical

Phoenix absolutely steamrolled through the Nuggets during the second half, despite only treading water during the first. The biggest difference between the two periods? Dictating the game’s pace.

During the first half, the Nuggets played fast and jetted across the court in transition, allowing Jokic to put his incredible passing skillset to the test, finding his shooters often for open shots before Phoenix set up their defense. Contrarily, the Suns struggled to find their rhythm, unable to get stops for themselves which limited their own chances to attack Denver’s defense with their own speed.

The Nuggets score the fourth fewest fast break points per game amongst all NBA teams, and the three teams above them include the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, and Portland Trailblazers, all of whom have already “gone fishin.” On the other end, the Nuggets struggle to defend against the fast break as well, surrendering the highest score frequency to opposing teams on the break this postseason at 60 percent.

With Denver clearly accustomed to running the game at a slower tempo, Phoenix was honestly lucky to trail by just one point at the half after failing to exploit this clear weakness. Luckily though, the Suns turned things up after halftime, allowing them to twist this one into a blowout.

Phoenix scored 11 fast break points after the break, while Denver scored zero, as both teams for better or worse reembraced their identities. It all started with defense, as the Suns slowed down Jokic especially, forcing him into a 3-12 second half. Additionally, Phoenix secured defensive rebounds on 70 percent of Denver’s missed shots, while also winning the turnover battle during the second half, setting up the groundwork needed to spur fast breaks.

With this distinction between halves regarding who controlled game’s pace mirroring the scoreboard, the Suns must continue to emphasize its importance for Game 2. If Phoenix jumps out to a fast start early on, they can keep their hands on the wheel till the final horn and consequently go up 2-0.