Nikola Jokic recorded 32 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to help the Denver Nuggets steamroll the host Phoenix Suns 125-100 on Thursday night and win their Western Conference semifinal series in six games
Jamal Murray scored 26 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope produced all 21 of his points in a dominant first half as the top-seeded Nuggets reached the conference finals for the second time in the past four seasons. It is Denver's fifth overall trip to the Western finals
Jokic said on ESPN of ending the best-of-seven series on the road, "It cannot be a hostile environment for us. We know what to expect. We had the same mindset as playing at home -- just be aggressive, move them from the spots, make them make tough shots, and I think we did it."
Cameron Payne established personal playoff highs of 31 points and seven 3-pointers for the fourth-seeded Suns. Kevin Durant scored 23 points, but Devin Booker had just 12 to go with eight assists
The Nuggets will open the Western Conference finals at home on Tuesday against either the Golden State Warriors or Los Angeles Lakers
Phoenix trailed 81-51 at the break, with the 30-point margin tying last season's Suns for the third-worst playoff halftime deficit in NBA history to a team facing elimination. Phoenix trailed the Dallas Mavericks by 30 in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals before succumbing 123-90
Suns coach Monty Williams said of seeing the team's season end with a blowout loss for second straight year, "I'm not sure I can compare. They both bring bad feelings. The game and what you're trying to accomplish -- neither day feels good. ... It's just a bad feeling.
The bigger halftime deficits in elimination games belong to the San Francisco Warriors (34 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the 1971 Western Conference semifinals) and the Bucks (32 vs. the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the 2015 Eastern Conference first round).
Chris Paul (groin) missed his fourth straight game and Suns teammate Deandre Ayton (rib) also sat out. Phoenix shot 48.1 percent from the field and 11 of 28 (39.3 percent) from behind the arc. The Suns also received 13 points from Jock Landale
Bruce Brown scored 13 points and Michael Porter Jr. added 10 for the Nuggets, who shot 53.7 percent from the field, including 8 of 22 (36.4 percent) from 3-point range. Jokic connected on 13 of 18 shots while posting his third triple-double of the series
Denver began pulling away by scoring 17 straight points to end the first quarter with a 44-26 lead. Murray scored the first two points of the second to cap a 19-0 surge.
The Suns were down by 15 after Booker's basket with 5:11 left in the first half before the Nuggets exploded on a 19-2 burst. Murray's short jumper capped the run to make it 79-47 with 1:05 remaining
In addition to Caldwell-Pope's big half, Jokic had 20 points and Murray scored 18 in the half. For Phoenix, Payne had 19 points before the break.
Murray said on ESPN of the Nuggets' big first half, "We came in focused, we came in locked in and we knew what we had to do. We knew the crowd was going to be into it. We tried to take them out of the game and play fast just like we did in Game 5. I think we did a good job of executing on both ends.
The Suns trimmed the deficit to 91-68 on Payne's 3-pointer with 4:36 left in the third quarter. However, Murray sank two 3-pointers during a 10-3 run to get the Nuggets' lead back up to 30
Denver led 103-76 entering the final stanza. Jokic exited with the Nuggets up by 25 with 2:11 remaining
--Field Level Media