Phoenix Suns blown out in Game 6, eliminated from playoffs

Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts to a turn over during the first half of Game 6 of...
Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts to a turn over during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball Western Conference semifinal game against the Denver Nuggets, Thursday, May 11, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)(Matt York | AP)
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 9:37 PM MST|Updated: May. 11, 2023 at 9:56 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — For the second straight year, the Phoenix Suns saw themselves down 30 points at halftime in an elimination game in the Western Conference semifinals on their home floor. And for the second straight year, they were eliminated from the playoffs in ugly fashion. The Denver Nuggets blew past a depleted Suns team in the first quarter and never looked back on Thursday, beating Phoenix 125-100 in Game 6. The Nuggets will play the winner of the Los Angeles Lakers-Golden State Warriors series.

Cameron Payne got the start ahead of the injured Chris Paul. He was the only one who had a good game considering the circumstances. He made seven 3s and finished with 31 points. However, he only had two assists compared to four turnovers. Kevin Durant and Devin Booker struggled early and never regained their red-hot shooting from two games ago, finishing with a combined 35 points on 12-32 shooting. Booker by himself scored 36 points in Game 4, the last Suns win.

It was an easy game for the Nuggets, scoring at will against the Suns’ soft defense. Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic had another triple-double with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 17 points in the first quarter, ending the game with 21. Jamal Murray, who was questionable with a non-COVID illness, scored 26 points.

The Suns started decent out of the gate. Backup-turned-starter Jock Landale was energetic, and Bismack Biyombo was getting rebounds. It was a 27-26 Nuggets lead with 3:05 left in the quarter. But then the Nuggets went on a 17-0 run to finish the quarter. The Suns gave up 44 points in that quarter. In the second, it was similar, with the Nuggets scoring 37. It was an 81-51 lead for the Nuggets at halftime. In the 2022 Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks, the Suns were also down 30 at halftime, 57-27.

The Suns were without starters Deandre Ayton and Paul. Ayton missed the game with a rib contusion he suffered in Game 5, while Paul has been out since Game 2 because of a strained left groin. Ayton had a disappointing postseason, averaging only 13.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Fans harshly criticized the former No.1 pick’s lack of effort against the Nuggets, especially when a viral video showed him standing around while Jokic was grabbing offensive rebounds.