Playoffs 2021

NBA Playoffs 2021: Devin Booker and Chris Paul sink Denver Nuggets as Phoenix Suns take commanding 3-0 lead

The Phoenix Suns are one game away from the Western Conference finals.

In the latest clinical performance from Monty Williams' squad, the back court duo of Devin Booker and Chris Paul once again starred to lead Phoenix to the 116-102 win.

The third quarter proved pivotal once more, with a 31-21 period breaking the game open for the Suns.

Booker's stunning debut run continues

Booker has been waiting for this opportunity since entering the league. A chance to show his talents under the bright lights of playoff basketball.

The 24-year-old was averaging 27.1 points across his first eight postseason appearances, with his Game 3 total of 28 topping that number.

The backcourt of Booker and Paul outscored Denver's starting pair of Austin Rivers and Facundo Campazzo 55-11.

Clinic in the midrange

You can all picture it vividly.

Chris Paul with the ball in hand, dribbles to his right around a screen with a big man dropping back. Smooth as you like he pulls up and rises from the midrange to hit nothing but net.

Paul was at it again in Game 3, hitting midrange jumpers on repeat including two from the right elbow to confirm Denver's demise. As the home crowd groaned in frustration, Paul walked to the bench with his shooting hand raised, in the ultimate dagger celebration.

Paul finished the night with 27 points and eight assists. He now has 34 assists and just three turnovers for the series in combination with his total of 30 fourth quarter points on 12-for-13 from the field. Ridiculous.

Jokic hampered but not slowed

Presented with the trophy in front of the fans pregame, the Denver crowd showered Jokic with MVP chants throughout the first half.

Those chants turned to silence during the second quarter, when a Jokic tip-in resulted in the Serbian turning his ankle on the foot of Booker on landing.

Taking a moment to compose himself on the floor, the big man would stay on the floor to the relief of the home crowd.

As it has for many of the Nuggets' losses this postseason, it felt like Jokic was tasked with carrying the entire offence, with a fatigued MVP seemingly running out of gas in the fourth quarter.

It was another monumental individual performance from Jokic, finishing with 32 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. The statline added his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history with a 30/20/10 game in the postseason.

Surprise x-factor

When Torry Craig was traded to the Suns for cash considerations from the Milwaukee Bucks little was made of the move.

An important rotation player on the Nuggets in recent years, Craig failed to crack the rotation with the Bucks, but has quickly become an important piece of the bench in Phoenix.

Craig scored all five of his points in the first half, playing 14 minutes in his role off the bench and once again adding excellent perimeter defence to the lineup.

Gordon struggles

A key acquisition via trade, Aaron Gordon's play with the Nuggets has been inconsistent since he joined the club.

Initially hoped to be a key tool in the Denver offence alongside Jamal Murray, the expectations for Gordon significanty rose when the point guard went down with a torn ACL.

With that in mind, Denver managed to withstand a scoreless first half on 0-for-7 shooting from the former Orlando forward to trail 59-55 at the half.

It didn't get much better after the break, with the athletic forward tallying just four points on 2-for-10 shooting.

Jokic finished with 32 points in Game 3, while the rest of the Denver starters combined for 30.

A famiiar situation for Denver

Denver is no stranger to finding themselves in a deep hole during a playoff series. Pulling off two comebacks from 3-1 down in last year's playoffs, the task is even greater this time around, with the Nugges now facing the challenge of being the first team in NBA history to come back from trailing 3-0 in a best of seven series. Teams with a 3-0 lead are 142-0 all-time.

What's next?

The Nuggets won't have long to wait to keep their season alive, with just one night off ahead of Game 4 that will once again be played at Ball Arena in Denver.

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