Nikola Jokić not only squashed his beef with the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, but he also led the Denver Nuggets to a commanding win at Ball Arena.
Jokić dropped a 29-point triple-double to lead the Nuggets past the Suns 118-102 in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinals series. The Nuggets now lead the series 3-2, and are just a win away from reaching the conference finals for the first time since 2020.
The Nuggets came out hot, and took an 11-point lead after a first quarter fueled by 14 points from Michael Porter Jr. They had 17 fast-break points in the period, too, and held the Suns to just a single field goal in the final two minutes of the quarter. Phoenix, however, rallied just before halftime.
The Suns mounted a 22-7 run, capped by a huge Terrence Ross 3-pointer, to grab their first lead of the game with just more than 90 seconds left in the half. The Nuggets, however, closed the last stretch on a 5-1 push and, despite putting up just 17 points in the period, took a 3-point lead into the break. The game would have been tied, but Devin Booker’s last-second heave was just a little too late.
Book can't miss 😂🔥
If only this counted... pic.twitter.com/8JfA9WhdB1
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 10, 2023
The Nuggets opened the third quarter on a 17-4 run, and the game was back in their control for good. They pushed their lead to 20 points multiple times while shooting 14-of-20 from the field as a unit, and seemed to really get under the Suns’ skin in the final minute of the period.
With Booker at the free-throw line on a take foul, the four other Suns players gathered around coach Monty Williams on the court. Jokić and Bruce Brown walked over to join the huddle, and things escalated very quickly. In the end, Durant and Brown received double technical fouls.
Landale must have softened Jokic up for KD 😅 pic.twitter.com/zYoMaIPW8m
— Ball Don’t Lie (@Balldontlie) May 10, 2023
By then, the Suns were just too far out of it. The Nuggets cruised to the 16-point win easily in the fourth quarter, which moved them just a win away from the conference finals.
Jokić finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. It marked his 10th career playoff triple-double, which is the most ever recorded by a center in NBA playoff history.
Jokić settled his beef with Suns owner Mat Ishbia before Game 5 started, too. The two linked up briefly during pregame warmups in what was a very different meeting than when Jokić shoved Ishbia in the final minutes of a contentious Game 4 in Phoenix. The Suns took that game by 5, and Jokić, who put up 53 points in that game, was fined $25,000.
Brown added 25 points off the bench for Denver in the win. Jamal Murray and Porter each finished with 19 points, and Aaron Gordon added 10 points. The Nuggets shot 50% from both the field and from behind the arc.
Booker led the Suns with 28 points and 6 rebounds in the loss, and Durant finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Phoenix was still without Chris Paul, who is still dealing with a groin injury he sustained earlier in the series. He was seen working out in Ball Arena before the game, but it's unclear when he'll be able to return.
Game 6 of the series is set for Thursday night in Phoenix.