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Nuggets eliminate Suns behind Nikola Jokic’s triple-double

May 11, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) dribbles against Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) and Phoenix Suns center Jock Landale (11) during the first half of game six of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Jokic recorded 32 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to help the Denver Nuggets steamroll the host Phoenix Suns 125-100 on Thursday night and win their Western Conference semifinal series in six games.

Jamal Murray scored 26 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope produced all 21 of his points in a dominant first half as the top-seeded Nuggets reached the conference finals for the second time in the past four seasons. It is Denver’s fifth overall trip to the Western finals.

Cameron Payne established personal playoff highs of 31 points and seven 3-pointers for the fourth-seeded Suns. Kevin Durant scored 23 points, but Devin Booker had just 12 to go with eight assists.

The Nuggets will open the Western Conference finals at home on Tuesday against either the Golden State Warriors or Los Angeles Lakers.

Phoenix trailed 81-51 at the break, with the 30-point margin tying last season’s Suns for the third-worst playoff halftime deficit in NBA history to a team facing elimination. Phoenix trailed the Dallas Mavericks by 30 in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals before succumbing 123-90.

The bigger halftime deficits in elimination games belong to the San Francisco Warriors (34 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the 1971 Western Conference semifinals) and the Bucks (32 vs. the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the 2015 Eastern Conference first round).

Chris Paul (groin) missed his fourth straight game and Suns teammate Deandre Ayton (rib) also sat out. Phoenix shot 48.1 percent from the field and 11 of 28 (39.3 percent) from behind the arc. The Suns also received 13 points from Jock Landale.

Bruce Brown scored 13 points and Michael Porter Jr. added 10 for the Nuggets, who shot 53.7 percent from the field, including 8 of 22 (36.4 percent) from 3-point range. Jokic connected on 13 of 18 shots while posting his third triple-double of the series.

Denver began pulling away by scoring 17 straight points to end the first quarter with a 44-26 lead. Murray scored the first two points of the second to cap a 19-0 surge.

The Suns were down by 15 after Booker’s basket with 5:11 left in the first half before the Nuggets exploded on a 19-2 burst. Murray’s short jumper capped the run to make it 79-47 with 1:05 remaining.

In addition to Caldwell-Pope’s big half, Jokic had 20 points and Murray scored 18 in the half. For Phoenix, Payne had 19 points before the break.

The Suns trimmed the deficit to 91-68 on Payne’s 3-pointer with 4:36 left in the third quarter. However, Murray sank two 3-pointers during a 10-3 run to get the Nuggets’ lead back up to 30.

Denver led 103-76 entering the final stanza. Jokic exited with the Nuggets up by 25 with 2:11 remaining.

–Field Level Media

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