Denver Nuggets 120, Phoenix Suns 112: Three takeaways
For whatever reason, Jamal Murray loves playing in Phoenix.
It’s the place where he dropped 46 points in 2018. It’s also where the Nuggets’ lead guard hit a dramatic game-winner on Dec. 29, 2020.
The Blue Arrow came through once again and delivered when Denver needed him most. With 0.2 seconds remaining, Murray hit a wild stepback three-pointers over the 6-foot-11 DeAndre Ayton to force overtime. Although it would take two overtimes, the Nuggets pulled out a 120-112 victory to secure their first three-game win streak of the season. Nikola Jokić helped the Nuggets dominate the boards 65-50 against Phoenix, corralling a career-high 22 rebounds to go along with a game-high 29 points and six assists. Chris Paul led the Suns with 21 points and 13 assists on 9 of 20 shooting.
"We can get a whole lot better," Murray said to ALTITUDE of the Nuggets' win streak. "We got two big wins here in Phoenix, but we still have room for improvement. So we'll watch film, get better and see how we can improve on this road trip."
Tired legs clearly played a factor in this game as both teams shot under 42 percent on the night. Denver will now look to enjoy a much-needed day of rest ahead of their game in Dallas on Monday (6:30 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).
Here are the takeaways:
Jamal takes over
For a player who has been battling a well-known shoulder injury over the past two weeks, this was another testament to Murray’s toughness.
The Nuggets’ guard played a second-straight night of 40-plus minutes and delivered several crucial moments for the Nuggets in the clutch. While the shot will obviously make its rounds on various highlight shows and social media Saturday night, Murray had several playmaking moments that were effective for Denver as well.
One of his biggest assists was a dime to Jokić on a reverse lay-in And-1 late in the first overtime that gave Denver a 104-102 lead with just 28.4 remaining. Murray was incredibly efficient on the night, giving up just two turnovers in six quarters of action.
MPJ takes another step forward
Michael Porter Jr. called it.
“I think I’ll feel all the way back to normal tomorrow,” Porter Jr. said after the Nuggets’ overtime win against Phoenix Friday.
Less than 24 hours from his first action in nearly a month, where he posted seven points and six rebounds, Porter Jr. made his impact felt against the Suns with a 14-point, 11-rebound performance off the bench.
Although Porter Jr. is still working his way back, he showed just how dangerous he could be in the second quarter. The second-year forward dropped nine points in just seven minutes, going 3 of 3 from downtown.
While Porter Jr. wasn’t as potent in scoring in the second half, he made several crucial rebounds down the stretch. In the first overtime, Porter Jr. secured his second double-double of the season by grabbing three of the team’s eight boards.
"It was good and I'm excited to be back," Porter Jr. said after the game. "Every game we're just building and just keep getting better and better."
Porter Jr. wasn’t the only player to have a strong performance for the reserves. With several starters struggling to find their shots, the bench picked up the load and scored 52 points. JaMychal Green led the group with 16 points while Monte Morris battled through some early struggles in the game to finish with 13 points and four rebounds.
Joker brings the physicality
The NBA’s elite find ways to dominate games even when they aren’t at their best offensively throughout the game. Jokić showed once again why he is among that group.
Jokić was clearly fatigued throughout the double-overtime contest, but he made his impact felt on the glass and getting to the line. In addition to a new career mark on the glass, he was just two shy from tying his personal best in free-throw attempts – going to the line 14 times.
"I think today wasn't about talent, it was about who wanted it more," the center said after the game.
He was also pivotal in the two overtimes. After going 2 of 8 for six points in the third and fourth quarters, Jokić more than made up for it in the two quarters, scoring 12 of his 29 points.