NBA Playoffs Denver-Phoenix: Jokic-Durant All Challenges and Player Traits
Hardly any alternatives for the two coaches in the conference semifinals. The Serb can overturn the defense of the Suns, who have more talent in KD, Paul and Booker. Physical endurance is the key to both
Luxury train between Denver and Phoenix. The team with the best regular-season record in the West, ranked number one in the Western Conference, against the one with the greatest concentration of talent, 12-1 record since Kevin Durant took over. Race 1 is scheduled to start at 2.30am Italian time tonight in Colorado, it will be fun.
DENVER NUGGETS (1)-PHOENIX SUNS (4)
In the first round playoffs, the Nuggets defeated Minnesota 4-1 and the Suns defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 4-1.
Denver: Murray, Caldwell-Pope, Porter, Gordon, Jokic. Phoenix: Paul, Booker, Craig, Durant, Ayton.
Going into the second round, there are two teams with quintets of tremendous quality but with very little bank. While rotations are always reduced in the playoffs, in this case Malone and Williams are forced to make a virtue out of necessity, playing violence… Jokic can send the Suns defense into a tailspin. He’s amassed amazing numbers against the Wolves: 26.2 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9 assists per game despite facing Gobert and Towns. Ayton isn’t the Frenchman on defense and maybe not even Kat in attack. He will suffer. And to limit him, he needs to tire him out in the other half, especially as an offensive threat the Suns mustn’t forget. With the Clippers crippled by the absences of George and Leonard in Game 3, Booker finished the streak averaging 37.2 points, 5 rebounds and 6.4 assists. Caldwell-Pope will try to stick to him like a sticker, but happy birthday… The Suns have three future Hall of Famers: Paul and Durant without even thinking about it, probably even Booker, one day. Plus the #1 pick of the 2018 draft. In short, on paper, nobody in the West comes close to the absolute value. But Paul is almost 38 years old and Durant is approaching 35: Your physical “fitness”, especially working overtime as playtime, needs to be checked. CP3 managed to accelerate against the Clippers, especially in the fourth quarter. It’s going to be harder to afford against the Nuggets. The series will likely be decided by the open shots, yes wide open, of Craig and the Suns sixth man Okogie, who will enjoy the double on their teammates. To win, Denver needs Murray — 27.2 points in the playoffs so far — to confirm themselves as a credible offensive alternative to Jokic in order to keep opposing defenses “honest.” And that Gordon and KCP as defensive specialists against Durant and Booker at least do what they can.
The Suns are favorites because they have more potential. Bookmakers also prefer them, albeit to a limited extent. Although, for the first time in franchise history, Denver has home field advantage for all playoffs in the conference. And that’s no small advantage: it’s played on high ground, the nuggets are used to it, the opponents aren’t. The Suns won against the Clippers but were unconvinced and burst into tears. It’s true that the team is still playing with this new line-up, it’s also true that more continuity will be needed against Denver. The Nuggets instead need to up the tempo of the series, lengthening it, tiring out opponents, wearing down Booker and Durant on defense. And maybe confide in Coach Malone, who is preferred as a strategist to Coach Williams. Very uncertain prognosis, 2-2 so far in the regular season counts to zero considering Phoenix was a very different team without Durant. However, if both teams do their best, the Suns are likely to be untouchable in the west. So 4:2 for them.
April 29 – 12:08
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