The Denver Nuggets came to close.
Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets absolutely dominated the shorthanded Phoenix Suns on Thursday night to officially secure their spot in the Western Conference finals. The Nuggets flew to an easy 125-100 blowout win over the Suns at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, which closed out their Western Conference semifinals series 4-2. It was the largest margin of victory by any road team so far this postseason.
The Nuggets flew ahead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. They closed the period on a 17-0 run in the final three minutes, which gave them an 18-point lead. They quickly pushed that to 30 by halftime, thanks to a second 17-4 run late in the second quarter. The Suns were getting blown out by 11 on the boards, and Denver almost shut Kevin Durant down completely. Durant was held to just 8 points in the first half after shooting just 2-of-11 from the field.
The Suns narrowed the gap briefly in the second half, but it was far too late to make any meaningful push. The Nuggets cruised to the 25-point win with ease, and will now advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2020 — when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Walt Disney World bubble because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nuggets have never reached the NBA Finals. They lost in the ABA Finals once before the merger.
Jokić — who had his 10th career playoff triple-double in their Game 5 win, which set an NBA record for a center — led the Nuggets with 32 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds on Thursday. He's the first player to have three triple-doubles in the same playoff series since Russell Westbrook did in 2017. Jamal Murray added 26 points, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 21 points. They shot almost 54% from the field as a team, too.
Durant finished with 23 points, and ended up shooting 8-of-19 from the field. Cameron Payne dropped 31 points after shooting 7-of-9 from behind the arc. Devin Booker finished with 12 points and 8 assists, and shot just 4-of-13 from the field.
The Suns were missing both Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton. Paul missed most of the series with a groin injury. Ayton was ruled out on Thursday afternoon with a rib contusion, something he sustained in Game 5 on Tuesday night after colliding with Bruce Brown. But, perhaps more disappointing for Suns fans, Phoenix has now been on the wrong end of a blowout with a spot in the conference finals on the line in back-to-back seasons. The Dallas Mavericks beat the Suns by 33 points in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinals series last season.
The Nuggets will now await the winner of the “California State Championship” series in the conference finals. The Lakers hold a 3-2 series lead over the Golden State Warriors headed into Game 6 of their series on Friday night.