An air of revenge. Two years after being pitifully swept away in four dry games in the second round of the NBA playoffs, the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, May 11, on their package, to reach the Western Conference final, as in 2020. During this match 6 won without shaking (125-100), the Serbian star Nikola Jokic signed a new triple-double (32 points, 12 ists, 10 rebounds), and Jamal Murray added 26 points.
The No. 1 seeded Nuggets went 23-2 through the latter part of the first quarter to take a comfortable 18-point lead (44-26) and were never threatened afterwards. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – who is averaging 9.5 points in the playoffs – scored 17 points in this fiery first quarter. He finished the game with 21 points on the clock.
Denver’s offense continued into the second quarter and the lead grew 81-51 at halftime, prompting boos from Suns fans as the players returned to the locker room. The second half wasn’t much better. Cameron Payne still finished with 31 points for Phoenix, making 7 of 9 3-point shots. Kevin Durant scored 23 points.
The Suns played without injured Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul. Ayton suffered a rib contusion in Game 5 on Tuesday, while Paul has been out the past four with a left groin injury. Phoenix is eliminated in the Western Conference Semifinals at home for the second straight season despite acquiring 13-time All-Star Durant at the transfer deadline. But one of the best scorers in the NBA planet, who had some good streaks in these playoffs, only managed one of his first ten shots on Thursday.
The Nuggets will make the conference final for the first time since losing to the Lakers in five games in the Florida bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic. They never reached the NBA Finals.
The resilience of the Celtics
Back to the wall after their home defeat 48 hours earlier, the Boston Celtics have found the resources to stay alive on Thursday in the Eastern Conference semi-finals by winning in turn in Philadelphia on the package of Sixers (95-86), and come back tied at three wins all.
And who better than star Jayson Tatum to illustrate the resilience shown by the C’s in this match which allows them to hope to finish the series in front of their home crowd on Sunday? The winger, who struggled despite the headwinds (9 rebounds, 6 ists, 2 blocks), experienced an ordeal in attack during the first three quarters, weighed down by terrible clumsiness (1 out of 13 on shots) , before his resurrection in the period of truth, marked by a 4 out of 5 three-pointer. He scored 16 of his 19 points in the last quarter, knocking out Philadelphia.
“We had to insist, despite the difficulty, because a match lasts a long time. Fortunately I have teammates who held on, each of us had an impact on the meeting. And all that matters is that we won it.”commented the late evening hero.
Despite its failure in the first period, Boston has also mastered the Sixers, counting up to 16 units ahead, thanks to Marcus Smart (22 pts), Jaylen Brown (17 pts) and Malcolm Brogdon (16 pts), while by imposing a relentless defense on Joel Embiid, then contained at 3 out of 9 on shots.
But the MVP of the season, finally author of 26 points (10 rebounds, 3 blocks), was able to react in the second act to allow the Sixers to erase this delay, well helped by Tyrese Maxey (26 pts). James Harden, on the other hand, was unable to raise his level (13 pts to 4 of 16 on shots, 9 ists), he who was able to play the saviors twice in this series.
“Le Monde” deciphers the news and the challenges of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Philly approached the last quarter by leading (73-71). A comeback ultimately not followed through, because the Celtics’ defense was intractable, conceding only five baskets out of the twenty attempted by their opponents. And to see the specter of the curse reappear which seems not to have to let go of coach Doc Rivers, now under the threat of losing his fourth playoff game after having led 3 sets to 2 and therefore having had the opportunity to impose. Three misadventures suffered in 2009, 2010 and 2012, each with when he was coaching… Boston.
Le Monde with AP and AFP