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Denver Nuggets lean on Nikola Jokic to grab 3-2 series lead against Phoenix Suns

Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets (centre) against Deandre Ayton (right) of the Phoenix Suns during Game 5 of their NBA play-offs. PHOTO: AFP

DENVER – Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone did not like what he saw in his team’s last two defeats when they allowed Phoenix to score 121 and 129 points, and he made it a point to focus on shutting the Suns down on Tuesday.

The result was a 118-102 win in Game 5 of their National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference semi-finals in Denver, which he said was all because of an improved defensive display.

“We didn’t play any defence in the two games we lost in Phoenix,” Malone said.

“When we’re not running, and we’re not defending, we’re going nowhere. And that’s what we’ll have to do in Game 6 if we’re going to close this series out.”

Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 29 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, while Bruce Brown scored 25 points off the bench in the Nuggets’ victory, which put them 3-2 ahead in the best-of-seven series.

Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray each added 19 points and Aaron Gordon finished with 10.

Game 6 will take place on Thursday night in Phoenix.

Kevin Durant had 26 points and 11 rebounds, Devin Booker scored 28 points and Deandre Ayton added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Suns.

After a close first half, Denver took control in a chippy third quarter. The Nuggets went ahead 69-53 with a 17-4 run to open the second half and kept increasing their advantage.

They took a 91-74 lead into the fourth quarter, and then went on an immediate run to essentially put the game away.

The Suns tried their best and scored six straight points to get back within 18, but Brown hit two free throws, Murray banked in a 12-footer and Christian Braun had a steal and a dunk to make it 104-80 with 7:48 left.

Booker then hit a three-pointer, but Jokic fed Gordon for an alley-oop dunk, giving Jokic his 10th assist of the night and fourth triple-double of the post-season.

Suns coach Monty Williams was unhappy with his team’s performance in the lopsided third quarter and said that was the reason why they lost.

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“It was like nothing we’ve put on the floor this year from our standards,” he lamented.

“We stood still and didn’t move them around enough. I felt we were somewhat stagnant.

“We’ve got to meet the challenge with the physicality.”

Booker, meanwhile, was not fazed by defeat and said they will go back to the drawing board to prepare for Game 6.

“I love it. Every game has its own character. Every game is its own movie, its own different preparation and everything to go with it,” he said.

“We’re going watch over film, see how we can be better for Game 6.” AFP, REUTERS