Denver Nuggets 110, Phoenix Suns 98: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

It was a tale of two halves for the Denver Nuggets to open the 2021-22 season, as they used lockdown defense and hot 3-point shooting in the second half to begin the campaign with a 110-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

The Nuggets used defense to grab control of the game in the first quarter. After 12 minutes, Denver held a 26-20 lead as Nikola Jokić led the way with 10 points and four rebounds in the quarter. Aaron Gordon chipped in with eight points and two assists.

Denver’s second unit struggled to maintain the lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Cold shooting from beyond the arc allowed Phoenix to regain the lead midway through the second frame as Chris Paul caught fire from beyond the arc. Phoenix continued to put points on the board in a hurry and secured a 58-51 lead heading into the halftime break.

Denver stormed out of the gates to begin the second half, using a 18-3 run to regain the lead as the 3-pointers started to fall. The Nuggets dropped 34 points in the third quarter, but a late 8-0 run from Phoenix to end the frame cut Denver’s lead down to 85-82 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Nuggets built the lead back up to seven points in the opening minutes of the final frame as Jeff Green knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers. Both teams locked in defensively throughout the remainder of the game, but Denver knocked down enough shots to maintain a healthy lead during the remainder of the game.

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s win.

Back to work for the MVP

It didn’t take long for the reigning MVP to get in a groove Wednesday night. Jokić dropped 10 in the first quarter and finished with 15 points, six rebounds, and two assists in the first half.

The second half was no different for the Serbian big man, and he ultimately finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds on 13-of-22 shooting from the field. Jokić also added two assists and two steals in his 35 minutes of action.

After struggling (relative to his MVP standards) against Deandre Ayton last season, Jokić went to work early and fueled a big season-opening win for Denver.

Second unit struggles to start

Phoenix grabbed control of the game in the second quarter as a result of early struggles from Denver’s second unit. Facundo Campazzo, Austin Rivers, PJ Dozier, Jeff Green, and JaMychal Green were the five players off the bench Wednesday night, and it took some time for that group to find a rhythm.

However, in the second half, Jeff Green caught fire and finished with 13 points in his Mile High Basketball debut. Dozier added 10 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes of action.

A change made by head coach Michael Malone in the second half was keeping one of Will Barton or Michael Porter Jr. with the second unit. Keep an eye on how the rotation evolves in the coming weeks.

Nothing like a little break

The first half was not the most visually appealing half of basketball. Both teams struggled to consistently score and Denver fell behind in the second half.

However, the halftime break proved to be exactly what the Nuggets needed. Denver locked down defensively and after knocking down just six 3-pointers in the first half, the Nuggets hit 11 in the second half alone.

Denver finished 17-of-39 from beyond the arc and had six players in double-figures, led by Jokić’s 27 points.

Denver is back in action Friday against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday at Ball Arena (7 p.m. MT).

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