The Denver Nuggets looked like they might take Game 1 after taking a brief 10-point lead in the third quarter, but since that point the wheels have come off on both ends of the floor. After watching the Suns rip of a 16-0 run in the third to take control of that game, the Nuggets have seemingly been unable to recover.
In Game 2, they never showed the fight they did in the opener, eventually scuffling to a 123-98 loss despite trailing by only 10 at halftime. On offense, they couldn’t buy a shot as the four starters not named Nikola Jokic combined for 26 points, while the MVP had 24 himself. On the other end, Phoenix was seemingly able to get whatever shot they wanted, whenever they wanted, as Chris Paul pulled the strings all night to get the Suns great looks as he had 17 points and 15 assists with non turnovers.
After the game, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone didn’t mince words when it came to his team’s effort, calling it embarrassing and admitting that he felt his squad quit.
"This was just an embarrassing performance from top to bottom."
— AltitudeTV (@AltitudeTV) June 10, 2021
“I felt we quit tonight, which is something you never want to see…”
Michael Malone had some strong words for his team after Game 2. pic.twitter.com/YoFGrxMleB
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) June 10, 2021
He wasn’t alone in that analysis, as Charles Barkley the Inside the NBA crew also took the Nuggets to task for not being up for Game 2 after the way Game 1 ended.
After reports of Aaron Gordon speaking up after Game 1 and calling the team out, Will Barton confirmed that there were again things said in what was unsurprisingly a frustrated locker room, but he believes it was ultimately what the team needed to hear.
Asked Will Barton if anyone spoke up in the postgame locker room: “Some things were said … Some things that needed to be said.”
— Mike Singer (@msinger) June 10, 2021
All of this is to say, if the Nuggets can’t find a better effort level, much less a better quality of play, in Game 3, they’re going to get put on the doorstep of elimination by a Suns team that doesn’t play with its food. Phoenix has shown their ability to go for the kill when they smell blood in the water with their Game 5 and Game 6 performances against the banged up Lakers, and right now they’re pouncing on a listless Denver team in the same manner.