Denver vs. Phoenix: Matchup to Watch
The second round of the playoffs is in full gear within the Western Conference. The Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns have already played one game with the Suns holding serve on home-court. However, do not count the Nuggets out. After all, this is the same team who is more than acclimated with overcoming adversity as they became the first team in NBA history to overcome two different 3-1 deficits in last year’s playoffs. On the other side, the Phoenix Suns are looking like a dark-horse to not only make it to the NBA Finals but to actually win the title. So, what is the matchup to watch for this series? Believe it or not, the answer is pretty simple.
Matchup to Watch: Denver vs. Phoenix
Denver vs. Phoenix: The Battle Down Low
For the Denver vs. Phoenix series, there is a matchup that instantly intrigues any avid NBA fan. The battle of the opposing centers. Nikola Jokic vs. Deandre Ayton. Jokic just got announced as the league MVP and for good reason. However, that does not take away from Ayton being the instrumental third star of these young Phoenix Suns. In game one, both centers put on a show. Jokic finished with 22 points, three blocks, three assists, nine rebounds, and shot 40.0 percent from deep. Ayton finished the game with a box score of 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 69.2 percent shooting from the field. The good news for us basketball fans is that this is just a precursor of what is to come in this series.
On the season, Ayton finished with totals of 14.4 points, 1.2 blocks, 10.5 rebounds per game, and a field goal percentage of 62.6 percent. His numbers dipped a bit from last season, but remember, the Suns added another star to their mix, Chris Paul. If anything, this helped take some weight off the shoulders of Ayton clearing the way for him to focus on other facets that don’t show up in the box score, like rim protection and setting good screens.
When matched up with the Joker this season, he was one of the ones who did a “decent,” job somewhat limiting the MVP. In three games played against Jokic, Ayton has given up 90 points when guarding Jokic but has also held him to only 38.2 percent shooting from the field. Jokic is still getting plenty of points, but not many can say that they have held him to inefficient shooting numbers. What about his opposition, Jokic?
Given that Jokic just won MVP, one probably already knows of his basic stats by now. 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists per game, and a field goal percentage of 56.6 percent. Also, let’s stop with this notion that the Joker cannot play defense. If you actually watch the games, you will see he can defend. Even the numbers prove that he has improved on this end of the court.
When defending Ayton this season, Jokic has given up 122 points to him on 59.1 percent shooting. However, one could chalk this up as Ayton simply improving his craft. Jokic has actually held serve against other elite big men this season. Against Domantas Sabonis, he only gave up eight points, against Rudy Gobert, he only gave up 17 points in three different games when matched up with them. Against Bam Adebayo, Jokic only gave up 14 points in two matchups when guarding the Miami Heat All-Star. The point is, even though some of the basic defensive stats don’t show it, Jokic is dangerous both offensively and defensively. All these reasons listed are why the Jokic vs. Ayton battle is the matchup to watch in the Denver vs. Phoenix series.
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