The visiting Denver Nuggets used one of the Phoenix Suns’ primary weapons against them Wednesday night, riding balanced scoring to a 110-98 victory over the defending Western Conference champions on Opening Night.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic led six players in double figures with 27 points for the Nuggets, who were swept by the Suns in the Western Conference semifinals last year.
Chris Paul had 15 points and a game-high 10 assists for the Suns, who were outshot 53.0 percent to 41.4 percent.
After Phoenix dominated the second quarter to take a 58-51 lead into halftime, Denver held the upper hand throughout most of the second half. The Nuggets led by as many as 11 in the third period and 85-82 at quarter’s end before newcomer Jeff Green bombed in consecutive 3-pointers to give the visitors some breathing room early in the final period.
The Suns trailed by nine after a Mikal Bridges hoop with 5:45 to play, then held the Nuggets scoreless for the next three minutes. But the hosts also failed to score, missing five straight shots and a pair of free throws while mixing in a turnover, and when Will Barton ended the dual drought with a 3-pointer with 2:45 to go, Denver was in command at 105-93.
Jokic hit 13 of his 22 shots and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds for the Nuggets, who are expected to play most, if not all, of the season without high-scoring guard Jamal Murray, out following knee surgery.
Barton finished with 20 points, shooting 8-for-14 overall and 4-for-8 on 3-pointers. The Nuggets outscored the Suns 51-42 on 3-pointers and outshot them from beyond the arc 43.6 percent to 37.8 percent.
Jokic and Barton got plenty of help from Michael Porter Jr. with 15 points, Green with 13, Aaron Gordon with 12 and P.J. Dozier with 10.
Denver’s only starter not to score in double figures was Monte Morris, who chipped in with nine points, all on 3-pointers.
Bridges paced the Suns with 16 points. Deandre Ayton matched Paul with 15, while Devin Booker had 12 on 3-for-15 shooting. Cameron Johnson and Landry Shamet chipped in 11 apiece, and Cameron Payne scored 10.
–Field Level Media