Chris Paul, Phoenix take down Denver in Game 3 of series

The Phoenix Suns are one win away from a spot in the Western Conference finals. Following their 116-102 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, Chris Paul and company are now on the verge of being one of the four teams left with a shot at the NBA title.

With the win, the Suns now move to a 3-0 lead in their series against the Nuggets and will have the chance to close things out on Sunday night when these two teams meet again in Game 4.

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Chris Paul helps Phoenix dominate Denver in Game 2, take 2-0 series lead

The Phoenix Suns pulled out a dominant 123-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the second-round series. The victory was the fifth straight for Phoenix this postseason. Chris Paul led the way for the Suns with 17 points, 15 assists and zero turnovers. Paul’s assist-to-turnover ratio in the series is now a staggering 26-1. Devin Booker also added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the surging Suns.

Phoenix appeared to be a step faster than Denver on both ends of the floor in the second game, as it got virtually whatever it wanted on the offensive end while simultaneously making things difficult defensively for Denver. All five Suns starters scored in double figures,  compared to only two for the Nuggets’ first five. Freshly minted MVP Nikola Jokic paced the Nuggets with 24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, but his production wasn’t nearly enough, especially with minimal help from the guys around him. Moving forward, Nuggets coach Mike Malone is going to have to figure out a way to get his team going, particularly Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr., who combined for just 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting in Game 2.

The only good news for the Nuggets right now is that the series if about to shift to Denver for Games 3 and 4. There, the Nuggets will obviously look to play better than they were able to do in Phoenix. Unfortunately for Denver, the math isn’t on its side. A total of 430 playoff series have started 2-0, and only 28 times has the team that gained the early advantage failed to win the series, per Land of Basketball. That’s less than seven percent of the time. The most recent example of this occurred in the first round this year, as the Los Angeles Clippers bested the Dallas Mavericks in seven games after dropping the first two games of the series. So, it’s not an impossible feat, but it is an unlikely one. The Nuggets …

Chris Paul, Phoenix dominate second half in Game 1 win over Denver

Game 1 between the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets was truly a tale of two halves. The teams played as competitive of a first half as any fan could have asked for but, then, Chris Paul and the Suns took control during the third quarter and never looked back as they came away with a 122-105 win.

All five of Phoenix’s starters scored in double figures, with four eclipsing the 20-point plateau, on their way to victory. Paul was fantastic, finishing the win with 21 points, 11 assists and six rebounds. He had plenty of help though as Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton combined for 64 points, 19 rebounds and 13 assists to help contribute to the Suns’ Game 1 win. On the other side, Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 22 points and nine rebounds but, in the end, his performance wasn’t enough to keep this game competitive down the stretch.

These two teams will meet again on Wednesday night as the opening tip of Game 2 is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. ET with TNT handling the broadcast.

Here are the three biggest takeaways from Phoenix’s Game 1 win.

1. He’s back

Yes, Chris Paul looked great in Game 4 of Phoenix’s first-round series against the Lakers, but his next two games were discouraging. He scored only 17 combined points on 33.3 percent shooting as the Suns closed out the Lakers, so there was no telling how he’d handle a more difficult test against a healthier Nuggets team. After scoring only five first-half points, it looked like his shoulder was still at considerably less than 100 percent.

Well, the second half should clear up any concerns. Chris Paul is healthy. He scored 14 points in the fourth quarter alone, showing off his typical mid-range mastery after continuously managing to find the matchup he wanted (either Michael Porter Jr. or a big man) through pick-and-roll switch-hunting. He fired high-velocity passes all over the court and even looked faster than he did in the Lakers series. This was …

Nuggets pick out Trail Blazers in second half to take Game 6 126-115

Nikola Jokic tallied 36 points and Michael Porter Jr. added 26 points, all in the first half, as the Denver Nuggets closed out the Portland Trail Blazers 126-115 in Game 6 to win the series 4-2. Damian Lillard led Portland with 28 points, but struggled from the field. CJ McCollum added 21 points for the Trail Blazers.

Porter Jr. started the game 5-5 from behind the arc to give the Nuggets an early advantage, but Portland found its rhythm to eventually get a 33-29 lead after one.

The Trail Blazers then went on a 16-6 run to open up a 63-53 lead in the second quarter. Portland took a 68-61 lead into halftime and went on a run early in the third quarter to open up a 93-79 advantage, but from there it was all Denver.

Jokic scored 20 points in the third quarter as Denver closed the frame on a 19-8 tear, trailing by three entering the final period. The Nuggets then went on a 21-7 run to open the fourth and never looked like letting up.

Lillard set a playoff record for 3-pointers made in a series, but will face speculation about his future with the franchise after his fifth first-round exit. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic could also be on the way out if the Trail Blazers look to start from scratch again. The Nuggets will face the Suns series in the second round.…

Blazers lose in Double OT thriller

Needing a win, the Portland Trail Blazers came out with their pants full of soup in Game 5 of their series against the Denver Nuggets. With defense as porous as a broken screen door and offense as dry as the Sahara, the Blazers dug themselves a 20-point deficit by the second period. Denver’s mission to capture advantage in the series seemed secure.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the rout. Portland ate away at the increasingly-complacent Nuggets, then Damian Lillard went nuclear, posting an amazing performance culminating in 17 straight points over two overtimes…a feat impossible to describe.

When the smoke cleared, Lillard had the best performance in Blazers playoffs history with 55 points on 17-24 shooting, an NBA record 12-17 from distance, with 10 assists. But Lillard’s teammates came up woefully short, missing rotations and easy scoring plays in the double-OT thriller, leaving the Blazers down 147-140 in the game, 2-3 in the best-of-seven series.

First Quarter

The Blazers opened the game with a new wrinkle: stiff defense! They made the Nuggets waste dribbles and passes. Denver tried to run the offense through Aaron Gordon but he couldn’t deliver. Portland forced him to go away from the basket instead of towards it once he received the ball. Unfortunately the Blazers were ice cold on offense, missing easy shots and hard. Jusuf Nurkic went scoreless on three fairly makeable conversions. CJ McCollum drifted on his jumpers. As the Blazers bricked their first 8 shots, the Nuggets opened up a 10-0 lead.

The Blazers finally got their first point at the 7:53 mark on a free throw after an Illegal Defense call on Denver. Their second score came on a goaltend of a Norman Powell layup. They didn’t make a real bucket until the clock read 6:25, when Robert Covington got loose in the lane. By that time Denver was like butter on a roll. Nikola Jokic, Facu Campazzo, Michael Porter, Jr., everybody was scoring. The Nuggets ended up hitting 7 threes in the period, Portland only …

NBA Playoff Recaps

Bucks vs. Heat score, takeaways: Milwaukee tops Miami in Game 2 after tying record for 3-pointers in a quarter

The Milwaukee Bucks made quick work of the Miami Heat on Monday night after a record-tying first quarter as Milwaukee knocked down 10 3-pointers in the opening frame, matching the NBA playoff record set by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. After 12 minutes of action at Fiserv Forum, the Bucks owned a 26-point lead and they never looked back as Milwaukee ultimately dominated Miami throughout the game to come away with a 132-98 victory.

In the end, Milwaukee knocked down 22 3-pointers as a team with Byrn Forbes leading the charge from beyond the arc with six made 3-pointers of his own. While Forbes led all bench scorers with 22 points, it was Giannis Antetokounmpo who paced the Bucks on the offensive end as he finished the win with 31 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. On the other end of the spectrum, the Heat struggled mightily from beyond the arc after setting a franchise playoff record for made 3-pointers in Game 1. That cold spell proved to be enough to decide this one as Miami was never really in it after the opening eight minutes of play.

With the win, Milwaukee takes a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series. Things will shift to Miami for Game 3, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night with TNT handling the broadcast. Here are the three most important takeaways from Milwaukee’s Game 2 victory.

 

The Bucks are switching so much more now that no single defender is ever responsible for what an opposing scorer does, but Antetokounmpo has exceeded all expectations against Butler so far, and that switching has protected him from chasing Butler over screens, an area in which he struggles.

Nuggets beat Blazers 128-109 to even series

Jokic scored 38 points to overcome a 3-point shooting barrage from Damian Lillard and the Nuggets evened the first-round series by beating the Portland Trail Blazers 128-109 on Monday night in …