Mile High Cypher Report 2.3: Jokic’s career-high 53 points wasted as Suns even series 2-2

By Daniel Paiz

Nikola Jokic’s career-high 53 points were wasted as the Phoenix Suns take care of business at home 129-124 against the Denver Nuggets. Jamal Murray contributed 28 points and 7 assists for Denver. Devin Booker and Kevin Durant had 36 points apiece for the Suns. Denver had double digit scoring from all five starters, but it was the benches that decided the outcome: Phoenix won the bench scoring battle 40-11 in this game. The series is now tied 2-2 and Game 5 arrives on Tuesday, May 9th 2023.

Each team has taken care of home court, and that will have to be the case again for Denver in Game 5.

Game 4 recap

Denver started out strong but Phoenix took advantage of Denver’s lack of adjustments, leading to momentum at the end of the first quarter and the first half of the second. The back and forth added to the tension and drama, which didn’t help with the Suns owner literally flopping after he held onto the ball as Jokic was trying to get it out of the crowd; frankly, he should have been removed. The halftime break has things nearly equal, and it’s very telling of one thing: the hustle and effort of who wants it more. The Suns are outhustling at the half, and yet are up just two points. This should signal to Denver certain adjustments have to be made. There needs to be more offensive movement, and there has to be more involvement from different Nuggets on the scoring side.

The third quarter has devolved once again to star versus star, as Jokic and Booker trade buckets and Denver can’t seem to move the ball around enough to keep Phoenix moving. It’s understandable Jokic has the hot hand, but getting others to score would stretch the Suns defense thin. Landry Shamet hits some big shots in the fourth, and the Suns all of a sudden have a bench that’s contributing; Denver does not.

This fourth game and fourth quarter came down to defensive adjustments, and who wanted it more. The Nuggets made slight adjustments to getting the ball out of the hands of Booker, but it was almost too little too late because it allowed the other guys to get going. 40-11 on bench points in favor of Phoenix was the final gut punch that led to the Nuggets coming up short. The goal is to outscore your opponent, but if you don’t get stops defensively, it will be a long night. Each home team has taken care of home court, so a road win might determine this series.

Keys to Game 5

Nikola Jokic had a career-high 53 points along with 11 assists. More rebounds from the two-time MVP won’t lead to a Denver win, but distributing the ball to other guys more will. Of course, it’s up to the other guys, starters and bench players alike, to follow through and get buckets. Increased distribution on offense will help to facilitate better shot opportunities. This two-man give and go with Jokic and Murray is effective in stints, but not for nearly an entire half. There were countless possessions where at least three Denver players were standing and watching these two guys play.

There were also SEVENTY-SIX points in the paint by Denver, and they still lost. That largely comes from Jokic’s 53 points and Murray’s 28. Unfortunately, it didn’t come from Denver outrebounding the Suns. The Suns won the rebounding battle and had a better shooting percentage across the three main categories. That happens because they had wide open looks in the third and fourth quarter when Denver doubled on Booker too late.

Whoever makes adjustments at halftime, and when things aren’t going their way will have a better shot at winning Game 5. Denver did not adjust their defensive plan at the half, did not get more players involved offensively (in terms of passing or different bench players), and didn’t hustle as much. There were moments where the Suns were up by two points, four points, and felt like a lot more because they had the momentum and the hustle factor. Denver likely understands and needs to execute better team defense. This means trying out zone, switching who defends who, and utilizing the bench. The bench is the reason why so many thought the Nuggets have what it takes to get a title; if the bench depth isn’t used, serious questions loom for the one seed.


One thought on “Mile High Cypher Report 2.3: Jokic’s career-high 53 points wasted as Suns even series 2-2

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s