NUGGETS

Nuggets fall behind big, comeback bid falls short against Suns

Mar 5, 2024, 10:51 PM | Updated: 11:03 pm

DENVER—The Denver Nuggets had their worst quarter of the season on Tuesday, getting blasted 37-18 in the second quarter against the Phoenix Suns. It led to a 117-107 win from the visiting west foes, topping Denver for the first time since dropping to the Nuggets in the playoffs last spring.

Suns role player Grayson Allen filled in nicely in Devin Booker’s absence, torching the Nuggets with eight threes and 28 points. He buoyed a Phoenix efforted that was led by Kevin Durant’s 35 points, eight of which came in the extra period.

“We got outscored 37-18, allowed a 21-1 and as I told you guys, a few of the huddles during that second-quarter run that they had, It’s imperative. We weren’t making any shots, we have four turnovers, the six points during that stretch, but when you’re not making shots, you got to find a way to guard and we did nothing in that quarter,” head coach Michael Malone said.

Nikola Jokic had a shot to win it at the buzzer in regulation but it didn’t fall—a microcosm of what was one of his worst games of the season, only scoring 25 on 18 shots with 16 rebounds and five assists. Jusuf Nurkic played an extremely physical game against the Joker, even fouling before the finishing bell of the fourth. Denver’s big spurt in the second half came mostly without Nurkic on the floor.

“We got a good look, we’ve seen him make that shot 95 out of 100 times,” Murray said of Jokic’s shot at the buzzer.

Into the team’s first overtime of the year they went, and the Suns quickly jumped out to a big lead, scoring more points in the extra period than in the fourth, going 15-5 in overtime.

“You have to expend so much energy to get back in the game,” Malone said. “Great look to win it at the buzzer.”

The result and final five will erase the comeback. Denver was down 77-55 with 9:15 left in the third quarter, even taking a three-point lead on a Jamal Murray bucket with a minute left. It was answered by an absurd Durant three to re-tie the game.

“We had a couple of guys who showed up in chill mode and they had lost two games in a row and they’re playing for their lives,” Malone said. “I don’t think the effort was there.”

The Suns were playing a third game in four days, and have fallen behind the eight-ball in the West.

Meanwhile, Denver has what many are expecting to be an NBA Finals preview on Thursday, hosting the Boston Celtics. The East’s top team lost their first game in the past dozen by blowing, funny enough, a 22-point lead in the second half.

“I can’t remember a time this year where we allowed a run like that, that’s the ballgame right there, I know we had a chance to win it but that 21-1 run was uncharacteristic of the way we have played lately.”

Denver drops to 24-6 at home on the season and 42-20 overall, they’re just a game back of Minnesota for first place with Oklahoma City lurking in second place.

“That might be one of the worst losses we’ve had. That was a very winnable game,” Murray said. “It’ll be tough to go home tonight.”

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