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Suns vs. Nuggets score, takeaways: Chris Paul helps Phoenix dominate Denver in Game 2, taking the 2-0 series lead

The Phoenix Suns pulled off a dominant 123-98 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the second round series. The win was the fifth straight for Phoenix this post season. Chris Paul led the Suns with 17 points, 15 assists and zero turnover. Paul’s assistant turnover ratio in the series is now a staggering 26-1. Devin Booker also added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the rising Suns.

Phoenix seemed to be one step faster than Denver at both ends of the floor in the second game, as it got pretty much what it wanted at the offensive end, while making it difficult defensively for Denver. All five Suns starters scored in double figures compared to just two for the Nuggets̵

7; first five. Freshly drafted MVP Nikola Jokic drove the Nuggets with 24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, but his production was not near enough, especially with minimal help from the guys around him. Going forward, Nuggets coach Mike Malone will have to figure out a way to get his team going, especially Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr., who only combined 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting in Game 2.

The only good news for the Nuggets right now is that the series, should it switch to Denver for games 3 and 4. There, the Nuggets will obviously look to play better than they were able to do in Phoenix. Unfortunately for Denver, math is not on its side. A total of 430 playoff series have started 2-0, and only 28 times has the team that got the early advantage failed to win the series per game. Basketballland. That’s less than seven percent of the time. The most recent example of this happened in the first round of this year, when the Los Angeles Clippers passed the Dallas Mavericks in seven games after dropping the first two games in the series. So it’s not an impossible feat, but it’s unlikely. Of course, the Nuggets can not think of the odds, as their full focus should be on Game 3, which is scheduled for Friday night. Before moving on to that game, though, there are three key takeaways from Game 2.

1. CP3 set up a playmaking clinic

Chris Paul is one of the best playmakers in NBA history, and his passing ability was on full screen in Game 2. Paul chose Danver’s defense with precision, and he set up his teammates with open opportunity after open opportunity during competition. When all was said and done, Paul had collected 15 assists, which is tied to the third most he has ever had in a playoff game – and he has played in a whole lot of playoff games. Just as impressive as the large number of assists he had was how Paul did not record a single turnover during the entire game. He finished with a 15-0 ratio assisted to turnover.

As conspicuous as Paul’s numbers were, this is not the first time Paul has recorded at least 15 points, 15 assists and zero turnover in a playoff. In fact, it is not even the second time. Paul has now achieved the feat three times – the same number of times as all other players combined since 1980.

Paul has now recorded a 15-point, 15-assist game with zero turnover for three different decades. Let it sink in for a moment. The guy’s lifetime is impressive. Everyone loves to talk about LeBron James’ lifetime, and rightly so, but Paul should be mentioned in the same breath. Over the course of a decade and a half in his career, Paul still seems to be close to the top of his powers, and he’s a huge part of the reason why the Suns are now just two wins away from a conference final.

2. The Nuggets did not make their 3s but continued to shoot them

Denver had a tough night beyond the arc. The nuggets started slowly from long range and they were never quite able to recover. They shot only 1 in 13 from deep in the first quarter, but that did not dissuade them. Instead of saying “hey, maybe it’s not our night from long range” and looking to attack the basket, the Nuggets just kept shooting 3s up. When the last buzzer sounds, the Nuggets had tried 43 3s and made only 14 of them. That’s less than 33 percent – well below the league average.

There is something to be said for leaning towards a previously successful strategy. Stick to what got you there, as they say. Sometimes, however, adjustments have to be made on the go. When you have an evening outside the arc, mix things up. Go to the edge, pull some offenses, try to get a few easy ones to go in and build on that. It’s basic basketball, but the Nuggets did not in Game 2. Continuing on from long-range jack-up shots, the Nuggets played right into the Suns’ hands as the misses led to passing opportunities for Phoenix. Going forward, the Nuggets are likely to shoot better from long range, but if not hopefully they will eventually adjust their offensive approach.

3. Denver really misses Jamal Murray in this series

After Jamal Murray went down with an ankle injury in the regular season, many expected the Nuggets to sink into the position. This did not happen as they were able to maintain their position instead. Then they were able to move past the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round without Murray. He was missed, but they were able to get the job done without him. That may not be the case in this series, as Murray’s absence is obvious and his production is badly needed.

Outside of the Jokic, the Nuggets have a hard time getting anything on the offensive end. In Game 2, the Denver guard trio combined Austin Rivers, Facundo Campazzo and Monte Morris to just 12 points on 4-of-19 shooting. They were heavily outspilled and out-produced by the Phoenix backcourt for the second straight game, and their frontcourt duo Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. did not go much better. No one steps up and grabs the secondary role next to Jokic – Murray’s role. Once out there, Murray is a guy who can go and pick up a bucket almost anytime he wants, especially when the defense enters Jokic. It was just last season that he had two 50-point performances in the first round against Utah. Murray can score, and for the first time since he went down, it’s extremely clear how much Denver misses him. Without him, the talent gap in the series might just be too big for Denver to overcome.

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