The Phoenix Suns loss to the Denver Nuggets on opening night had the vibe of a team who felt they’d already ‘arrived’ and were expecting an easy win after building a 16-point lead late in the second quarter.
When Suns, in front of their home crowd, took a 57-41 lead with just under two minutes left in the half (1:27), against a Nuggets team they had swept just two months ago in the 2021 Playoffs, they must have felt the game was already over.
Yet, the Nuggets declined to acquiesce.
In fact, Denver outscored the Suns 10-1 to close the half, including a buzzer-beating rainbow three from Nikola Jokic to enter halftime only down seven points, and blew out of halftime with a 23-7 burst in the third quarter to take a lead.
“I thought that two-minute segment in the second quarter kind of took our fans out of the game,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said afterward. “We were in the teens with the lead and then it went to seven quickly, and then that momentum shifted quickly.”
The Suns scored only 40 second half points after a 38-point second quarter, shooting just 35% in the third and fourth quarters combined. The Suns biggest problem on Wednesday was their biggest strength the last two seasons: mid-range shots. On Wednesday night, the Suns clanked middy after middy.
Denver became the aggressor, generating steals and transition points, while the Suns looked…