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Nuggets stars, depth behind them spark Game 6 win, give Suns something to aim for

It was a complete game from Denver.

The Nuggets’ stars stepped up. Nikola Jokić had another efficient triple-double — 32 points on 13-of-18 shooting, with 12 assists and 10 rebounds. An ill Jamal Murray added 26 points. Beyond that, the Nuggets showed their depth and chemistry— Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 21, Bruce Brown had 13 off the bench, Aaron Gordon played strong defense on Kevin Durant. The Nuggets offense was clicking and they had 81 points at halftime and the game already felt over.

It’s the kind of chemistry that has the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

“When we defend, when we rebound, when we run, when we share the ball, we believe we’re the best team in the NBA,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, via the Associated Press. “And tonight, we showed it.”

It’s the kind of depth and chemistry the Suns hope to have in future years.

This year, after trading their depth to land Kevin Durant, the Suns didn’t have what it took to match up with a complete Nuggets team. Denver blew the game open late in the first quarter and never looked back, cruising to a Game 6 win 125-100.

The Nuggets take the series 4-2 and advance to take on the winner of the Warriors vs. Lakers series in the Western Conference.

The Suns’ wins in this series came when their stars Durant and Devin Booker took over and scored more than 70 points combined. They were at half that number in Game 6. Durant finished with 23 points on 8-of-19 shooting. Booker — who had been one of the best players in the postseason up to this point — struggled with 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

“It was a bad feeling,” Durant said. “It was embarrassing. They came out and got us in the mouth and we couldn’t recover.”

Cameron Payne — starting at the point in place of the injured Chris Paul — finished with a team-high 31. The Suns also were without their starting center Deandre Ayton for the deciding game due to a rib injury.

The Nuggets are off until the Western Conference Finals start next Tuesday in Denver. They will face either the Lakers or the Warriors, who face off in a Game 6 of their own on Friday night. The Lakers lead the series 3-2.

The Suns are off for the summer. Phoenix GM Jason Jones has work to do. In making the trade to get Durant, the Suns had to send out the depth on their roster — Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and Jae Crowder (plus four first-round picks and a pick swap) went to Brooklyn. Jones needs to go out and find quality depth and role players to replace those guys around Durant and Booker, plus have depth at the point behind an aging Paul.