Nikola Jokic, Nuggets Scrape by Suns, and Maybe it’s Time to Believe

Maybe at some point, we’ll believe the Nuggets were worthy of the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.Nikola Jokic looks to make a move vs. Deandre Ayton

Actually, if you don’t believe yet … well, it may be time to at least start considering it.

After all, the Nuggets are really making a strong case these days, as could be exemplified in their 97-87 home win over the Suns in Game 2 of their playoff series on Monday.

That’s right, Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets are leading Kevin Durant and the Suns, two games to none.

Obviously, both teams are a lot more than just those two men. But once the Suns landed Durant in a February trade, most people had them pegged as title favorites.

All the while, they just assumed the Nuggets weren’t good enough to beat them.

Now, it’s true, the Suns have yet to play a home game. That will come in the next two. Series can shift once everyone gets a shot at home.

But all we can go by now is what we’ve seen — and that’s Jokic, Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr. and on this night, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, forming the better team.

Jokic was particularly brilliant, scoring a game-high 39 points, collecting 16 rebounds and passing for six assists. He went 17-of-30 shooting.

That offset an off night for Murray, who connected on just 3-of-15 from the field. But everyone else managed to pick up the slack, with Gordon scoring 16 and Caldwell-Pope going for 15, missing just one of his six field-goal attempts.

All the way around, of course, Denver got it doner with defense. Without a doubt, holding a Suns team with Durant and Devin Booker to under 90 points is no easy task.

As for as a beautiful overall game? Yeah, forget it.

“Tonight was ugly, but I don’t mind ugly,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, via Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Durant went just 10-of-27 from the field and 2-of-12 on 3-pointers, for 24 points. Booker shot the ball much better, scoring 35, and was the biggest reason the Suns were able to keep it close — and even led for much of the night — until the final minutes.

Meanwhile, Chris Paul exited in the third quarter, never to return, with left groin tightness. He appeared to suffer the injury while positioning himself for a rebound. His status moving forward is TBD.

Game 3 is scheduled for Friday night in Phoenix.

“We’ve got to go home and take care of business,” Suns coach Monty Williams said, via Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

Without a doubt, Williams speaks the truth. And frankly, not a lot of people expected the Suns to be in this position against the Nuggets. But now it’s probably time to believe that, hey, Denver may be the real deal.

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