The Denver Nuggets came to close.
Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets dominated the shorthanded Phoenix Suns on Thursday night to officially secure their spot in the Western Conference Finals. An easy 125-100 win over the Suns at the Footprint Center in Phoenix. It’s the most wins by any road team so far this postseason.
The Nuggets jumped ahead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. They ended the period on a 17-0 run over the final three minutes, which gave them an 18-point lead. Thanks to a 17-4 run late in the second quarter, they quickly pushed it to 30 at halftime. The Suns were blown out by 11 on the boards, and Denver completely shut down Kevin Durant. Durant scored just 8 points in the first half on 2-for-11 from the field.
The Suns narrowed the gap in the second half, but it was too late to make any meaningful push. The Nuggets cruised to an easy 25-point victory to reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2020, when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Walt Disney World bubble due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Nuggets never reached the NBA Finals. They lost in the ABA Finals once before joining.
Jokic — who capped their Game 5 win with his 10th career playoff triple-double, an NBA record for a center — led the Nuggets with 32 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds on Thursday. He became the first player since Russell Westbrook in 2017 to have three triple-doubles in a single playoff series. They also shot nearly 54% from the field as a team.
Durant finished with 23 points and shot 8-for-19 from the field. Cameron Payne dropped 31 points after shooting 7-for-9 from behind the arc. Devin Booker finished with 12 points and 8 assists and shot 4-for-13 from the field.
The Suns are missing both Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton. Paul missed most of the series with a groin injury. Ayton was out Thursday afternoon with a strained rib he sustained from a collision with Bruce Brown in Tuesday night’s Game 5. But, even more disappointing for Suns fans, Phoenix has now clinched a spot in the conference finals. The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Suns by 33 points in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals last season.
The Nuggets will now await the winner of the “California State Championship” series in the conference finals. The Lakers take a 3-2 series lead over the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the series on Friday night.