NBA playoff tracker: Chris Paul, Suns surge ahead to take Game 1 over Nuggets

Welcome to the Yahoo Sports NBA playoff tracker, your daily one-stop shop for all the latest game results from each NBA playoff series. Here's a look at Monday's games.

Chris Paul’s shoulder injury is clearly a thing of the past.

Paul led the Phoenix Suns to a commanding 122-105 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night behind a massive fourth-quarter performance, which gave them a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinals series.

Chris Paul, Suns surge in 4th quarter

The two teams battled back and forth through the first half, and Denver went into the break with just a one-point lead.

The Suns finally found a way to shut Denver’s offense down in the third quarter, however, and took full advantage. Phoenix closed out the third on a huge 25-7 run to take a slight nine-point lead headed into the final period.

The Suns kept the Nuggets scoreless into the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, too, and pushed their lead to 15 after a pair of huge buckets from Chris Paul.

Paul then scored the next six points for the Suns, including a clutch step-back 3-pointer, and then Torrey Craig caught a perfect pass from Cameron Payne to complete the huge alley-oop slam. By that point, the Suns had made 17 of their last 22 shots from the field.

From there, the Nuggets were simply too far out of it. Phoenix held on to take the 17-point win and early series lead.

Nikola Jokic dropped 22 points and nine rebounds to lead the Nuggets, and Aaron Gordon added 18 points. Michael Porter Jr. finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Miles Bridges led the Suns with 23 points while shooting 8-of-12 from the field. Paul and Devin Booker each finished with 21 points, and Paul added 11 assists and six rebounds while shooting 8-of-14 from the field. Fourteen of his 21 points came in the final period where he went a perfect 6-of-6 from the field.

Game 2 of the series is set for Wednesday night.

Nets blitz Bucks, send message to NBA as James Harden sits

No James Harden, no problem.

Hours after the Milwaukee Bucks were upgraded as betting favorites over the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets on Monday, Kevin Durant and Co. secured a dominant 125-86 Game 2 win. With the victory, the Nets took a 2-0 series lead while delivering a stern message to the rest of the NBA that they're still the clear favorites to win the championship even as Harden sits.

This one was over early

The Nets raced out to a 39-16 first-quarter lead as Harden watched in street clothes, having suffered a hamstring injury early in Brooklyn's Game 1 win on Saturday. Milwaukee would never make it a contest as Durant and Kyrie Irving blitzed the Bucks and thoroughly outplayed Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

It was a commanding effort from a Nets team built the last two offseasons to contend for this year's championship. For the Bucks, fresh off a redemptive opening-round victory over the Miami Heat, it was a humbling reality check.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 07:  James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets congratulates teammate Kevin Durant #7 after the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks during game two of the Eastern Conference second round series at Barclays Center on June 07, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
James Harden contratulates Kevin Durant. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Durant led the charge with 32 points, six assists and four rebounds. He needed just 33 efficient minutes to rack up his tally while hitting 12-of-18 field-goal attempts, including 4-of-6 from 3-point distance. Irving, who also got a late-game blowout breather, finished with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds while connecting on 4-of-8 3-point attempts.

Antetokounmpo's 18 points (8-of-15 from the field) and 11 rebounds were no threat to the effort of Brooklyn's stars. Middleton, meanwhile, struggled to 17 points and five rebounds while shooting 7-of-20 from the field.

Will Nets need James Harden vs. Bucks?

The Bucks and their top-10 defense had virtually no answers for anything the Nets attacked with as Brooklyn shot 52.1% from the field, 50% from 3-point distance and turned the ball over just eight times. The Nets' oft-criticized defense looked just fine as Milwaukee shot 44% from the field, 29.6% from 3-point distance and committed 16 turnovers while falling more than 34 points short of its regular season-best 120.1 points per game.

Harden's status for Thursday's Game 3 with a lingering injury that hobbled him during the regular season isn't yet clear. But judging from the first two games of the series, it might not matter against the Bucks.

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