The Phoenix Suns got the expected output from their two superstars and the expected result in return, beating the west-leading Denver Nuggets 100-93.
With two superstars on the team, the Phoenix Suns will be difficult to beat when they are both clicking. On Friday in Phoenix against Denver, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker did their part in carrying the Suns to a win over a depleted Nuggets team. Given only one regular Denver starter played – Aaron Gordon – the Suns should have won, although the game was also closer than it should have been.
No butterflies in the belly for the Suns’ superstars on Friday
Durant admitted to the media after his first game, an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance, that he had some butterflies heading into the much-belayed first home start in Phoenix. Whatever nerves Durant had the game before were long gone on Friday as KD came out cooking for the home crowd. Durant was 4 of 4 from the field in the first period, including two three-pointers, on his way to 12 first-quarter points.
Not to be outdone, Booker had nine in the first quarter, although his shooting touch was not as good as Durant’s, going 0 of 3 from three-point range.
It was precisely the kind of start fans, and Durant wanted to see, and the Suns needed it. Seven other Suns participated in the first quarter and combined for just 11 points, which indicated the night it would be for Phoenix.
Slow night for the Suns’ other contributors
The Suns’ superstars had 37 of the team’s 60 first-half points as Phoenix led by 20 over Denver heading into the break. Unfortunately for Phoenix, what should have been a cakewalk against a second-string squad, turned into a battle, as the Nuggets outscored the Suns by 20 in the second half.
Deandre Ayton did grab 10 rebounds, and Chris Paul had 13 assists, but the duo combined for only 13 points. Likewise, the bench that had been so brilliant in recent wins was non-existent, scoring just 16 points.
Although KD and DBook combined for another 20 points, hitting their combined average at 57 points, the rest of the team only scored 20 points, and Phoenix could not get going against a resilient but undermanned Denver team.
An ugly finish to a win, but it is still a win for Phoenix
Fortunately, resiliency only goes so far in professional sports. The Suns’ defense, combined with some poor execution down the stretch, kept Phoenix in the lead after almost blowing a 27 points lead.
The Nuggets had cut the lead to five in the fourth quarter, and then both teams went ice cold, and the Suns hung on in an ugly finish. Over the last seven minutes of the game, the teams combined to score only 16 points, with both teams only scoring eight points each.
With both teams struggling to execute and the lead down to just four points with a minute remaining, Josh Okogie again stepped up for the Suns nailing a big three and sealing the win. JO had 14 points to lead all scorers whose name doesn’t end in -evin, for Phoenix.
Ultimately, it was an expected result against a team missing four starters. However, the Suns got a little lucky and maybe even learned a little lesson while maintaining their grip on the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.