Phoenix Suns Draw Even in the Series at 2-2 Heading Back to Denver

The NBA Playoffs is a game of adjustments from game to game to be able to gain an advantage to winning a series, and the Phoenix Suns adjustments in games 3 and 4 have been good enough to pull the series even at two games a piece.

The game is also a game where individual players have to make changes from game to game and this was the case for Center Deandre Ayton from his abysmal 4-point outing in game 3.

Ayton was aggressive from the jump ball and attacked the offensive glass on the game’s first possession where he grabbed three consecutive offensive boards to set the tone for his team’s aggression all night.

Deandre finished with only 8 points and 8 rebounds but it was his activity and engagement in the game that brought the crowd to a forgiving cheer, and his attitude in tonight’s game was more business-like as he took to the floor to get loose balls and blocked 2 shots being a better force in the paint.

Cam Payne continues to push the pace for the Suns and speed up the game, and it’s causing Nikola Jokic to run up and down and play fast, and this adjustment after the Chris Paul injury has allowed the Suns to become the aggressor in the series.

The Denver Nuggets were a two-man army tonight with a monster game from Jokic (53) and also 28 from Jamal Murray, but they didn’t get much of a contribution from their bench (11) as they had gotten in the first two games.

Denver controlled the game early with their shot-making ability ( 12-22) to the Suns (6-17) in the 1st quarter, but the Suns were able to stay close with their defense. 

This year’s Playoffs for Kevin Durant has been a learning experiment on the fly, as the Suns have only had him play in 15 total games after the trade, and he has yet to get to the Durant that teams fear night in and night out. In game 4 he was more comfortable and starting to look like that special shot-making guy that can take over an entire series.

Durant was in a good groove shooting early in the game 3-7 in 1st and a key momentum shot at the end of the quarter, Booker throws the ball the length of the court and Durant hit an 18-footer before the buzzer.

Both Durant and Booker finished with 36 points apiece and continue to carry the team’s scoring load, and tonight they got a helping hand from the bench in a contribution we haven’t seen in these playoffs as of yet.

There was some chatter during game 3 that Landry Shamet was booed when his name was called coming into the game, and the same scattered booes were heard in game four tonight.

The fans get very frustrated with a guy that is getting plenty of minutes but not producing points like they feel someone else would do with those minutes, but coach Monty Williams continued to stick with Shamet and it paid off tonight in a barrage of 3-point baskets that helped the Suns get the victory tonight.

Landry lead the scoring off the bench with 19 points on 5 of 8 shooting the 3-ball tonight, and it seemed like he did that with a very pissed-off demeanor on is countenance.

Shamet brought the intensity on both ends of the floor, in particular, the defensive end, and this is where he has earned his minutes even when he was not scoring, making it tough on whoever was in from of him with the ball and making them work for every point they scored.

Jamal Murray has two good scoring games in Phoenix this series but neither game was impactful enough to sway the outcome in Denver’s favor because of the defense that Shamet played on him. If it were not for Shamet’s defense, Murray may have gone for 40-plus in both of the games here in the Valley.

The Suns bench outscored the Nuggets bench 42-11 and this is something they haven’t gotten all playoffs, where their bench was able to sustain scoring and allowing the two stars to get spot resting minutes from time to time and stay fresh enough to finish strong.

Down the stretch, the Suns leaned on their playmakers and they delivered, as Durant made clutch shot after clutch shot, and Booker used his ability to set up clutch shots for his teammates as he continued to penetrate the Nuggets defense.

This looks like a totally different Phoenix Suns team that started the entire playoffs this year, they are starting to get a continuity that is scary beyond measure, especially since they are getting bench contributions and both superstars look unstoppable.

Game 5 will be a game up for grabs and it’s clear the pressure has now shifted back to Denver to have to win on their home floor and find a way to slow down this Suns new look.

Terrence Ross and TJ Warren haven’t lit it up, but have put enough fear in the Nuggets to pay attention to them, as it will get more difficult for the Nuggets to guard everything the Suns present.

The next question is, will the Nuggets have the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic for game 5 after he received a technical for shoving a fan in the stands during an altercation.

The fan just happened to be Suns new owner Matt Ishbia holding the basketball that bounced in his lap while he was trying to help Josh Okogie break his fall, and that’s when Jokic came over to grab at the ball to snatch it out of Ishbia’s hand and gave a left arm shove to push him away.

According to NBA rules and regulations in this regard, Joker should have been ejected from the game and also should receive a one-game suspension, but we will see what the NBA will do in this case, as we know that they do not want to affect the outcome of this series by taking away the most important player on their team.

Here is the NBA official’s statement from an interview with Duane Rankin of AZ Central.

It’s going to be an interesting game 5 and of course, in my opinion, the team that wins this game is the team that will win the series, the question will be can the Suns take their new style on the road and control the game in a hostile environment.

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