Nikola Jokić scored 32 points in another triple-double and Jamal Murray added 26 as the Denver Nuggets defeated the Phoenix Suns 125-100 in Game 6 on Thursday night, advancing the team to the Western Conference finals by first time since 2020.
Denver’s series victory comes two seasons after the Suns embarrassed the Nuggets in a second-round postseason sweep. This time, it was the Suns who were crushed on their home court to end the season for the second year in a row.
The Nuggets will play in the conference finals for the first time since losing to the Lakers in five games in the Florida bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have never reached the NBA Finals.
The top-seeded Nuggets used a 23-2 run through the latter part of the first quarter to take a 44-26 lead and never looked back. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, averaging 9.5 points in the playoffs, scored 17 in the first quarter, while Jokić added 14.
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Caldwell-Pope finished with 21 points. Jokić shot 13 of 18 from the field and had 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
Denver’s offensive attack continued in the second as the lead grew to 81-51 at halftime, drawing boos from Suns fans as players headed to the locker room. The second half was essentially an afterthought.
Cameron Payne scored 31 points for Phoenix, hitting 7 of 9 3-pointers. Kevin Durant added 23.
The Suns were playing without injured starters Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul. Ayton suffered a bruised rib in Game 5 on Tuesday, while Paul has sidelined the last four games with a left groin strain.
Phoenix was eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals at home for the second straight year despite a blockbuster trade deadline deal for Durant, a 13-time All-Star and one of the league’s most prolific scorers. The 34-year-old had some good moments in the playoffs, but made just 1 of his first 10 shots Thursday as the Suns fell into a big hole.
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Suns guard Devin Booker was brilliant for most of the postseason, averaging 36 points per game on 60% going into Game 6, but the three-time All-Star finished with just 12 points Thursday. .
The home team won the first five games of the series until the Nuggets broke through in Game 6.
For the Suns, the loss was eerily similar to Game 7 of last year’s Western Conference semifinals. Phoenix, with the best record in the NBA, trailed Dallas by 30 points at halftime and ended up losing 123-90 to end its season.
In the shot clock era, the home team has dropped more than 30 points in a potential playoff elimination game just three times. Phoenix is now responsible for two of them. The other was the Bucks in 2015.
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Pips: Murray was listed as questionable before the game with a non-COVID illness. Murray got a big hug from Nuggets coach Michael Malone when he left the game for the last time.
Suns: Jock Landale finished with 13 points and five rebounds, starting in place of Ayton. The team hosted its 80th consecutive sold-out crowd, counting regular season and postseason games. The Suns have never won a title since entering the league in 1968.