Have the Nuggets met their kryptonite within the Western Conference?

Mar 27, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach talks with referee Justin Van Duyne
Mar 27, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach talks with referee Justin Van Duyne / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets lost on Wednesday night for just the third time since the All-Star break. They still have the league’s best record since the break at 15-3, and they maintained a narrow lead in the Western Conference at 51-22 for the season.

But two of those three lsoses have come at the hands of the Phoenix Suns, and both game took place in Denver. This time the Suns took down the Nuggets 104-97, leading almost wire-to-wire. The game really never even got that close as the Suns were able to respond to every run and kept the Nuggets from getting within shouting distance in impressive fashion.

Just a bad night for the Nuggets

The Nuggets were without Jamal Murray, who has now missed three straight game with an ankle sprain then knee inflammation. He was sorely missed on Wednesday, as the Nuggets struggled to generate offense and hit shots.

But it seemed like more than that was off for Denver. The Suns didn’t have their starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, who always seems to battle Nikola Jokic well. But Jokic was oddly passive, reluctant to focus on scoring inside - even when the game needed that.

Jokic has been on the injury report recently so it’s possible that was part of it. And it’s not like he played poorly, he had 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists, it just seemed like his teammates weren’t making the shots he was creating, and there was an opportunity for him to dominate with scoring in the post.

Suns' stars causing problems

It was another dynamic performance by Kevin Durant who finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds. He scored 35 in the Suns’ overtime win in Denver on March 5th as well. KD is obviously capable of putting up big numbers against any team in the league, but he looks very comfortable against the Nuggets.

In another interesting wrinkle, the Nuggets didn’t employ a tradidtioanl backup center. The Suns went small with Durant basically playing center for stretches, and with Zeke Nnaji out, the Nuggets turned to a lineup with Peyton Watson at center. Things didn’t go great for Denver, but it was interesting to see Michael Malone tinkering to the point of tossing out a brand new lineup this late in the season.

The Suns do NOT have the Nuggets' number

To say that the Suns - or any team - have the Nuggets’ number would be dramatic. The two wins came in the month of March, which tends to produce fluky NBA results historically. This game came without Murray, which is also a huge factor. Also, we shouldn’t forget the Nuggets took this team’s best punch last year and knocked them out of the playoffs in six games. 

But still, any team winning twice in one month in Ball Arena is notable. The Suns have the firepower with Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal to make every game interesting. If they can get some consistency they could be Denver’s toughest competitor on the path to another Finals appearance.