Two teams that have never won an NBA Title will square off for the right to play in the Western Conference finals. This is an intriguing matchup, let’s take a look at the keys.
Will injuries catch up to the Nuggets?
Malone and the Nuggets deserve tons of credit for holding everything together all season in the face of daunting circumstances due to so many injuries. Malone mentioned that Denver is the only team still in the postseason utilizing two-way players such as Markus Howard, but you have to wonder when it’s all going to finally catch up to the Nuggets. The problem in the second round will be they are not playing the trail Blazers defense which, to put it mildly, is not very good. The Suns on the other hand are very good on the defensive and will also have the home-court advantage. The regular-season matchups between these two teams were all decided by less than 5 points with two of the three matchups going to overtime. But those games the Nuggets were close to full strength, that will not be the case in this series.
The Suns are dealing with Chris Paul’s injuries also which is limiting the range on his jumper, so expect that to be an issue also.
Can Devin Booker be contained?
With a Nuggets front-court decimated by injuries, they can’t stop him, but if they can slow him down they will have a chance. I look for the 6-foot-8 Gordon, a versatile and quick-footed perimeter defender to draw the assignment on Booker, his size will keep Booker from just posting up the other Nuggets guards. The only issue is Booker can’t guard Booker the whole game and things will get really rough for the Nuggets with the back-court matchups.
Key matchup: Jokic vs. Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton. The big man battle may be a classic in this series. Jokic is the likely MVP this season and Ayton averaged 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds while shooting an absurd 79.6% in Round 1 vs. the Los Angeles Lakers — his first playoff series.
Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. was held to 10.5 points in two regular-season meetings vs. Phoenix. But Porter was a huge weapon for the Nuggets vs. Portland in Round 1. Make no mistake about it for the Nuggets to pull this off Porter has to play the series of his life and he is capable of doing just that.
If both teams were completely healthy we would be staring down the barely of a 7 game series, but they aren’t. The Suns win this series off the strength of the backcourt, but it won’t be easy the Nuggets even missing a few pieces are a tough out for anybody. Suns in 6