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Booker, Paul power Suns to 3-0 series lead over Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets showed some life in Game 3, but that only gave the Phoenix Suns something to stamp out.

The Suns beat the Nuggets 116-102 on Friday to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals, all but sealing a trip to the conference finals. No NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in a series.

DENVER, CO - JUNE 11: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns is defended by Paul Millsap #4 of the Denver Nuggets in Game Three of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Ball Arena on June 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
The Nuggets are one game from elimination. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) 

A night that began with Nuggets star Nikola Jokic receiving his MVP trophy quickly turned for the Suns, who were up by double digits midway through the first quarter. The Nuggets cut the lead to single digits for much of the third quarter, but a 14-2 Phoenix run increased the lead to 20 early in the fourth quarter. There was no coming back from that.

The Suns again rode a balanced effort from their starting lineup, with all starters scoring in double digits and Devin Booker and Chris Paul combining for 55 points. Deandre Ayton was again strong in the paint, scoring 10 points and 15 rebounds.

For the Nuggets, Jokic at least performed like the NBA MVP, recording a triple-double with 32 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. He didn’t have much help, as Michael Porter Jr. was 5-of-13 from the field for 15 points, Aaron Gordon had four points and Will Barton still had to come off the bench in his return from a hamstring issue.

Chris Paul: Pretty good in the fourth quarter

Here’s what Chris Paul has done in the fourth quarter against the Suns:

Are the Nuggets done?

In all likelihood, yes, though there’s a reason we still play the games.

The Suns have won the first three games by an average of 18.7 points, and we all know the Nuggets aren’t at full strength. Even if Barton is 100 percent going forward, Jamal Murray still isn’t coming through that door. If Jokic is posting a 32-point triple-double and Denver is still losing by 14 points, it’s hard to think of a way this series turns around.

It all makes for a very explainable, but no less frustrating situation for the Nuggets. The team spent all season looking like one of the best teams in the West, but are now running into a buzzsaw of a Suns team that was a league-best 27-11 against teams .500 or above this year.

Game 4 is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Sunday in Denver.

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