Deandre Ayton will be key for the Suns as he looks to limit Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic’s production in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Monday. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
- The Nuggets take on the Suns in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Monday in the Arizona
- Phoenix enters as a 5-point favorite for the series opener
- Get the odds, preview, injury report, and prediction below
One of the Western Conference semifinals officially begins on Monday, with Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets visiting the Phoenix Suns.
Phoenix pulled off the unthinkable in round one by eliminating the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in six games, thanks to the brilliance of Devin Booker. Denver, meanwhile, took down Damian Lillard’s Portland Trail Blazers in six games as well.
The season series saw the Nuggets win two out of three, with both victories coming in OT. However, Booker didn’t suit up in their last meeting in January.
Nuggets vs Suns Game 1 Odds
|Team||Spread at FanDuel||Moneyline||Total Points|
|Denver Nuggets||+5 (-110)||+176||Ov 219.5 (-110)|
|Phoenix Suns||-5 (-110)||-210||Un 219.5 (-110)|
Odds as of June 6th
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Denver still has a depleted backcourt, with Will Barton (hamstring) and PJ Dozier (groin) both ruled out for Game 1. Expect Austin Rivers and Facundo Campazzo to start again, with Monte Morris getting ample minutes off the bench after averaging 15.3 points per night in the first round. Jamal Murray (knee) is out indefinitely.
The Suns thankfully have zero notable injuries. Abdel Nader (knee) is out, but he hasn’t played since March. Chris Paul’s shoulder is likely not 100% still, but a few days off should definitely help the injury he suffered in the series opener against the Lakers.
Nuggets vs Suns Projected Lineups
|Facundo Campazzo||PG||Chris Paul|
|Austin Rivers||SG||Devin Booker|
|Michael Porter Jr.||SF||Mikal Bridges|
|Aaron Gordon||PF||Jae Crowder|
|Nikola Jokic||C||Deandre Ayton|
Tough Matchup for Denver
The Nuggets proved the doubters wrong in their opening series with the Blazers. A lot of critics believed Michael Malone’s team would struggle to get anywhere in the playoffs without Jamal Murray, who was absolutely brilliant for this team last year in the bubble.
📸 | Flicks from the regular season #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/Se6HyRMhCm
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) June 6, 2021
However, with Jokic leading the way, Denver has impressed. He averaged 33 points, 10.5 boards, and 4.5 assists against Portland and continues to prove why he’s the clear-cut frontrunner for MVP.
Michael Porter Jr also rose to the occasion as the Nuggets’ second-best player in place of Murray, putting up 18.8 points per contest. He was fantastic in the series clincher too, pouring in 26.
While their backcourt of Facundo Campazzo and Austin Rivers doesn’t bring much of an offensive punch, they will need to be sharp on the other end specifically. The Suns have one of the best guard duos in the league with Booker and Paul – who just had their way with a very strong Lakers defense.
Perhaps, Malone could try switching Aaron Gordon on to Booker at some point, which seemed to work briefly against Lillard.
Phoenix Showing Out
The Suns looked absolutely tremendous in the opening round and the scary part is CP3 wasn’t even fully healthy. Book has been shining on the playoff stage with 29.7 points per night while shooting 43% from downtown, but his supporting cast has been just as key.
Despite Paul’s injury, his playmaking hasn’t taken much of a hit. The 11-time All-Star still dished out 46 assists in the Lakers series in rather limited minutes. Cam Payne was a player who stepped up heavily in the Phoenix backcourt when Paul was on the bench. He averaged 12.5 points and also shot over 40% from three-point range.
Deandre Ayton will also be very important in the Western Conference semis. The task of going up against Jokic won’t be easy, but he did make a statement in round one on the boards. He has the size and strength to potentially limit the Joker.
In 3 games against the Suns this year, Nikola Jokic’s TS% with Deandre Ayton on the floor: 51.8
Nikola Jokic’s TS% without Ayton on the floor: 75.8
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) June 5, 2021
The Suns were rock solid defensively in the first round. That could definitely cause some problems for the Nuggets, who were up against a Blazers team who are below average on that end of the floor. Expect the Jokic vs Ayton matchup to be a decisive one.
I really think Denver is going to have a tough time in this series. Their lack of depth could very well come back to haunt them here because Phoenix is a whole different beast than Portland, especially defensively.
As for Game 1, I’m taking the Suns to cover the spread. They’re rolling right now and Booker is feeling it. He’s going to have another big night at home while the supporting cast will also feed off the crowd. After some time to rest, expect Paul to be a vital factor as well.
Pick: Phoenix Suns -5 (-110)
Quinn Allen is a sports journalist, with a background and education in broadcast journalism (BCIT ’17). He writes about European Football, Basketball, and Baseball for numerous sites across the globe.