NBA playoffs: Suns overcome Nikola Jokić's 53, ride Kevin Durant and Devin Booker to 2-2 series tie
Nikola Jokić exploded for 53 points on Sunday. It wasn't enough.
The Phoenix Suns countered with big games from Devin Booker and Kevin Durant in a frantic 129-124 win over the Denver Nuggets. The game was an offensive showcase from both teams that featured All-NBA players at their best. In the end, Phoenix had more firepower and tied the Western Conference semifinal series at 2-2 after dropping the first two games in Denver.
Durant and Booker set the tone early with Durant tallying 11 first-quarter points and Booker 13. Durant, who shot less than 39% from the field in each of Games 2 and 3, capped the first quarter with a catch-and-shoot fadeaway buzzer beater to cut Denver's lead to 34-32.
KD AS TIME EXPIRES!
Get to TNT for Q2 of Game 4. pic.twitter.com/7tpTxdvcJ2
— NBA (@NBA) May 8, 2023
Jokić tallied nine points in the first quarter, then turned things up in the second en route to a 24-point half while scoring 11 straight Denver points. He also got involved in a bizarre encounter with Suns owner Mat Ishbia in the stands.
Jokić challenges Suns owner in stands
Ishbia had corralled a loose ball in his courtside seat. Jokic then forcefully took it from him and shoved the Suns owner back into his seat.
Nikola! 👀 pic.twitter.com/wzIGj6XNcC
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 8, 2023
The shove drew an unsportsmanlike technical foul, but Jokić remained in the game. He also remained red hot after halftime.
Jokić put on another personal scoring run with 13 straight Nuggets points in the third quarter to finish the stanza with 42. But Phoenix met his outburst with a 14-for-18 effort from the field, its best shooting quarter of the season. The hot shooting sent the Suns into the fourth with their then-biggest lead of the game at 98-92.
There, Landry Shamet joined the party with a 14-point fourth-quarter effort for Phoenix. Jokić and Jamal Murray kept the pressure on, but Phoenix never relinquished its late lead.
Booker and Durant enough for short-handed Suns
Booker and Durant each scored 36 points. Durant added 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals to his tally while shooting 11 of 19 from the floor and 2 of 4 from 3-point distance. Booker, who entered the game leading the playoffs with 36.9 points per game, added 12 assists and six rebounds to his total. He shot a scorching 14 of 18 from the field while connecting on 3-of-4 3-point attempts.
As a team, Phoenix shot 56.8% from the field and 13 of 29 (44.8%) from 3-point distance. Booker, Durant and Shamet were only Phoenix players to score in double figures. Deandre Ayton struggled to contribute on offense while tallying eight points and eight rebounds, attempting just six field goal attempts.
But the Suns' stars did enough to book the win alongside a balanced bench effort that saw Phoenix reserves outscore Denver's, 40-11. Chris Paul remained sidelined for a second straight game with a groin injury. His status for Game 5 isn't clear, but a reported initial timeline projected him to be sidelined through at least Game 5.
Will Jokić face discipline for shove?
Jokić added 11 assists and four rebounds to his 53-point tally. Murray posted 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds while shooting 13 of 25 from the field. Michael Porter Jr. struggled from the field in a 4-for-13 effort with 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He shot just 2 of 9 from 3-point distance and missed all three of his fourth-quarter 3s as Denver tried to rally.
The series shifts back to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday with some added off-day stress in Denver. Jokić wasn't ejected for his shove of Ishbia, but the NBA is sure to review the incident with further discipline potentially on the table.