The Phoenix Suns might have qualified for the NBA playoffs as the number four seed in the Western Conference, but the reality is that they’re a far more dangerous side than that seeding would suggest. That’s reflected in the fact that they’re the favorite to take out the upcoming Nuggets vs. Suns second round playoff series despite Denver being the best in the West all season. A 9-1 record with Kevin Durant on the floor since he was traded from the Brooklyn Nets is more indicative of the capabilities of this team, but they won’t have it all their own way against the might of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and co. Here are three bold predictions for the Suns’ second round playoff series against the Nuggets.
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3. Devin Booker to average 35 points per game
If the Suns’ first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers is anything to go by, Playoff Devin has well and truly entered the fray. Booker was phenomenal throughout those five games, averaging a casual 37.2 points per night on an absurd 60.2% shooting from the field and 46.2% from three-point land, while also grabbing 5.0 rebounds, dishing out 6.4 assists and snaring 2.6 steals. You don’t need me to tell you that those are crazy numbers.
The Suns obviously have a fair chunk of offensive firepower at their disposal, but with Booker going bonkers, Durant is more than happy to take a back seat – at least relative to what he’s capable of – and pop in his casual 30 a night on 17 or 18 shots. Booker, meanwhile, took 29 shots in Game 3 and 27 in Game 5 against the Clippers, and if he’s feeling himself against the Nugs there’s no reason he won’t do the same. He’ll have KCP draped over him for large swathes of this series, but when Booker is in the kind of mood that he’s been in since the playoffs began, it doesn’t matter who is guarding him. 35 points per game in a playoff series against the number one seed is no mean feat, but the way he was playing against the Clippers it’s well and truly within his grasp.
2. Phoenix Suns to average 120 points per game
There’s no denying that the Suns are an offensive powerhouse. Booker, as mentioned above, is shooting like the rim is five feet wide, and he’s not even their most talented offensive weapon. Durant is as good as anyone in the history of the game at that end of the floor, Chris Paul has the third most assists of all-time, Ayton is good for 18 points a night on efficient shooting; even Torrey Craig shot 55.5% from long range against the Clippers!
The Nuggets are solid enough defensively, though they are a long way behind their offensive capabilities at that end of the floor. They were around the middle of the pack in most defensive metrics throughout the course of the year; their defensive rating of 113.5 was 15th, while the 54.6% effective field goal percentage of their opponents was 14th. Against the Minnesota Timberwolves, they were slightly better than those numbers, but they weren’t manifestly different, and if you take out Game 1 – in which the Wolves managed just 80 points – Denver weren’t particularly proficient defensively. A side which boasts Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and not a whole lot else offensively is a very different story to the Suns, but even Edwards and co averaged 109 points or more in each of their last four games against the Nuggets. Phoenix are a hell of a lot more potent, and should be able to put up big scores most nights of this series.
1. Phoenix Suns to win in six
The performance of these teams throughout the course of the entire regular season suggests that the Suns will be up against it in this series. The Nuggets scored 116.8 points per 100 possessions during their 53-win season – good for fifth in the league. Jokic is as good as he has ever been, and with Murray finally back to his best, Aaron Gordon having found his place and Michael Porter Jr playing well, they are a side which will take a lot of beating over a seven-game series, particularly with the home court advantage.
The regular season, however, means little in the context of this current iteration of the Phoenix Suns. Since adding Kevin Durant, they have been nigh on impossible to beat, and with Devin Booker now in some of the best form of his career that has only been further solidified. Aside from their last game of the regular season, which had no bearing on anything and in which all of their starters sat, the Suns have won seven of their last eight at home, and it would be no surprise to see them sweep their three games in Phoenix this series. The Nuggets have been brilliant at home this year, but the Suns can grab a game in Denver and lock in a spot in the Western Conference Finals with a 4-2 series win.
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