PHOENIX — Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone and forward Aaron Gordon said they played soft in their Game 1 loss.
They talked about responding. Being more physical. More aggressive.
Then Game 2 started and the only thing that changed was the Phoenix Suns didn’t wait until the third quarter to take control.
The Suns lead for all but the first 86 seconds of Wednesday’s 123-98 victory in taking a 2-0 series lead in this best-of-7 conference semifinal series.
Leading by as many as 31, the Suns will look to take a 3-0 series in Friday’s Game 3 in Denver. They looked so convincing in victory Wednesday, their fans were chanting, “Suns in 4, Suns in 4!”
All five starters scored in double figures as Devin Booker had a team-high 18 points while Chris Paul posted 17 points, 15 assists to no turnovers and five rebounds.
NBA MVP Nikola Jokic paced Denver with 24 points as he gave the Nuggets a 2-0 lead to open the game.
It was all Suns after that.
While the Nuggets started 0-for-9 from 3-point range, with Michael Porter Jr. going 0-for-6 in the first half, Phoenix built a 10-point halftime lead with Dario Saric providing an eight-point spark off the bench.
When the third quarter came around this time, Phoenix just continued to pour it on the Nuggets.
From Booker hitting jumpers to Jae Crowder making plays and Paul picking apart the Denver defense, the Suns had the crowd roaring louder and louder and the Nuggets reeling deeper and deeper with the realization they had no answers Wednesday night.
Denver will return home with Jokic to play before what should be a lively atmosphere for Game 3. However, Phoenix showed in the first two games of the series this isn’t the same lopsided matchup in Denver’s favor.
The Nuggets were 6-1 in their last seven games against Phoenix coming into this series.
They’re now down 0-2, not shooting the ball well from 3 and looking lost on defense trying to keep up with Phoenix’s ball movement, player movement in the halfcourt and young legs in transition.
Phoenix shot 47.4% from 3-point range, scored 44 points in the paint and 14 points in transition.
It reached a point where Saric, not known for behind-the-back passes, threw one in traffic out to an open Cam Johnson for a 3 to give Phoenix a 109-78 lead with 6:05 left in the game.
Follow Duane Rankin on Twitter @DuaneRankin.