Nuggets dominate Suns in Phoenix, clinch trip to Western Conference finals


Nikola Jokić scored 32 points in another triple-double and Jamal Murray added 26 as the Denver Nuggets beat the short-handed Phoenix Suns 125-100 in Game 6 on Thursday night, advancing the team to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2020.

Denver’s series victory comes two seasons after the Nuggets were embarrassed in a second-round postseason sweep by the Suns. This time, it was the Suns getting blown out on their home floor to end the season for the second straight year.

The Nuggets will play in the conference finals for the first time since they lost to the Lakers in five games in the Florida bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have never reached the NBA Finals.

The top-seeded Nuggets used a 23-2 run during the latter part of the first quarter to take a 44-26 lead and never looked back. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — averaging 9.5 points in the playoffs — scored 17 in the first quarter while Jokić added 14.


Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets high-fives Aaron Gordon #50 during the second quarter in game six of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on May 11, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Caldwell-Pope finished with 21 points. Jokić shot 13 of 18 from the field and added 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

Denver’s offensive onslaught continued in the second as the lead grew to 81-51 by halftime, leading to boos from Suns fans as players made their way to the locker room. The second half was essentially an afterthought.

Cameron Payne scored 31 points for Phoenix, hitting 7 of 9 3-pointers. Kevin Durant added 23.

The Suns were playing without injured starters Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul. Ayton sustained a rib contusion in Tuesday’s Game 5 while Paul has been out the past four games with a strained left groin.

Phoenix was eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals at home for the second consecutive year despite a blockbuster trade deadline deal for Durant, a 13-time All-Star and one of the league’s most prolific scorers. The 34-year-old had some good moments in the playoffs, but made just 1 of his first 10 shots on Thursday as the Suns fell into a huge hole.

Aaron Gordon hyped

Aaron Gordon #50 of the Denver Nuggets celebrates during Game Six of the Western Conference Semi-Finals of the 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Phoenix Suns on May 11, 2023, at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)


Suns guard Devin Booker was brilliant in most of the postseason, averaging 36 points per game on 60% before Game 6, but the three-time All-Star finished with just 12 points on Thursday.

The home team won the first five games of the series until the Nuggets broke through in Game 6.


For the Suns, the loss was eerily similar to Game 7 of last year’s Western Conference semifinals. Phoenix, with the NBA’s best record, fell behind Dallas by 30 points by halftime and ended up losing 123-90 to end its season.

In the shot clock era, the home team has trailed by 30-plus points in a potential playoff elimination game just three times. Phoenix is now responsible for two of them. The other was the Bucks in 2015.

Nikola Jokic looks on

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić (15) looks on against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of game six of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center.  (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)



Nuggets: Murray was listed as questionable before the game with a non-COVID illness. Murray got a big hug from Nuggets coach Michael Malone as he checked out of the game for the final time.

Suns: Jock Landale finished with 13 points and five rebounds, starting in place of Ayton. The team hosted its 80th consecutive sellout crowd, counting regular season and postseason games. The Suns have never won a title since entering the league in 1968.

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