Chris Paul and Suns set off to win game opener against Nuggets


Welcome to Yahoo Sports NBA playoff tracker, your daily one-stop-shop for all of the latest results from each NBA playoff series. Here’s a look at Monday’s matches.

Chris Paul’s shoulder injury is clearly a thing of the past.

Paul led the Phoenix Suns to a 122-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night behind a massive performance in the fourth quarter, which gave them a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

Chris Paul, Suns jump in 4th quarter

The two teams battled back and forth in the first half, and Denver entered the break with just one point clear.

The Suns finally found a way to end Denver’s offense in the third quarter and took full advantage of it. Phoenix was third on a massive 25-7 streak to take a slight nine-point lead going into the final period.

The Suns also kept the Nuggets scoreless in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter and extended their lead to 15 after two huge buckets from Chris Paul.

Paul then scored the next six points for the Suns, including a 3-point clutch pullback, and then Torrey Craig caught a perfect pass from Cameron Payne to complete the massive alley-oop slam. At this point, the Suns had managed 17 of their last 22 shots from the field.

From there, the Nuggets were just too far away. Phoenix held on to take the 17-point victory and first place in the series.

Nikola Jokic lost 22 points and nine rebounds to lead the Nuggets, and Aaron Gordon added 18 points. Michael Porter Jr. finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Miles Bridges led the Suns with 23 points while shooting 8 of 12 from the field. Paul and Devin Booker each finished with 21 points, and Paul added 11 assists and six rebounds while shooting 8 of 14 from the field. Fourteen of his 21 points came in the last period where he had a perfect 6 of 6 from the field.

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for Wednesday night.

Nets blitz Bucks, message NBA as James Harden sits

No James Harden, no problem.

Hours after the Milwaukee Bucks were promoted to betting favorites over the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets on Monday, Kevin Durant and Co. claimed a dominant 125-86 victory in Game 2. With the win, the Nets took a 2-0 lead in the series while sending a stern message to the rest of the NBA that they are still the favorites to win the championship even if Harden is seated.

This one was over early

The Nets took a 39-16 lead in the first quarter as Harden looked on in formal attire, having suffered a hamstring injury early in Brooklyn’s win in Game 1 on Saturday. Milwaukee would never make it a contest as Durant and Kyrie Irving bombed the Bucks and largely outscored Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

It was an imposing effort from a Nets team built over the past two offseason to play in this year’s championship. For the Bucks, fresh off a redemptive first-round victory over the Miami Heat, it was a humiliating test of reality.

James Harden contradicts Kevin Durant. (Photo by Elsa / Getty Images)

Durant led the charge with 32 points, six assists and four rebounds. He only needed 33 effective minutes to rack up his score while making 12 of 18 field goal attempts, including 4 of 6 from a distance of 3 points. Irving, who also had a late-game break, finished with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds while connecting on 4 of 8 3-point attempts.

The 18 points of Antetokounmpo (8 of 15 on the field) and 11 rebounds did not threaten the effort of the stars of Brooklyn. Middleton, meanwhile, struggled to reach 17 points and five rebounds while shooting 7 of 20 from the field.

Will the Nets need James Harden vs. Bucks?

The Bucks and their defensive top 10 had virtually no response for anything the Nets attacked with as Brooklyn shot 52.1 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range and only returned the ball eight times. The Nets’ oft-criticized defense looked very good as Milwaukee shot 44% from the field, 29.6% from a 3-point range and committed 16 turnovers while falling over 34 points from his score. Best in regular season 120.1 points per game.

Harden’s status for Game 3 on Thursday with a lingering injury that hampered him during the regular season is not yet clear. But judging from the first two games of the series, that might not matter against the Bucks.

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