We have seen enough basketball this season to know a few things that will happen in the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns’ second-round Western Conference playoff series. We also know that sometimes anything can happen in the playoffs, so we explore both.
Phoenix and Denver played four times during the regular season, with each team winning twice. Of course, the teams that first played on Christmas Day 2022 are not the same teams squaring off this Saturday at Ball Arena in downtown Denver. Nor are they the same two teams that faced twice in the last two weeks of the regular season. Sure, the Suns won in late March and early April, but two-time and reigning League MVP Nikola Jokic did not participate. Regardless, we know some things that will happen and have some ideas of what might happen.
Series Assurance 1 – Jokic will fill the box score
Averaging less than half an assist short of a triple-double on the season, one thing you can take to the bank in this series is that the MVP will have at least one triple-double. After notching 29 triple-doubles in the regular season and two in his first five games this post-season, the idea that the Joker does not have an evening hitting double figures in points, rebounds, and assists is asinine.
This is one facet of statistics that Jokic dominates, getting more than twice as many as Domantas Sabonis, who had the second most in the league at 14. Further, Joker had 29 triple-doubles in 69 games, one every 2.4 games. Sabonis managed his 14 over 79 games, averaging one every 5.6 games.
Knowing the series must go at least four games, you can almost bet the farm on the idea that Jokic has at least one if not two, triple-doubles in the series.
Series Possibility 1 – Someone else will reach the statistical feat
During the regular season, 38 players combined to produce 119 triple-doubles and three of the players who contributed 31 are on the court. Of course, knowing Jokic had 29 of those 31 means that Kevin Durant and Jamal Murray had only one each during the regular season.
With only two players contributing two triple-doubles over a combined 112 games played for those two, it seems unlikely that someone other than Joker will reach the milestone. However, the playoffs are a different brand of basketball, with higher minutes for the stars, making larger boxscore numbers a legitimate possibility. In fact, in the last game of the first round, Devin Booker – who did not have a triple-double during the regular season – came just a couple of rebounds short in his superlative closeout performance.
The point is, Joker is not the only player in this series that can fill up the box score, and we should not be surprised if any of Murray, Durant, or Booker have a triple-double themselves. Don’t bet the farm on that one, but do not be surprised if it happens.