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Suns spoil Nikola Jokic’s MVP celebration, take 3-0 lead over Nuggets

Nikola Jokic’s Nuggets teammates showered him with hugs, pats on the back and cheers as the received the MVP trophy before Game 3 vs. the Suns.

In the middle of the fourth quarter, Phoenix guard Chris Paul also pointed at Jokic as the center of attention – successfully urging a referee to call a technical foul on the arguing Denver center.

The Suns again flustered the Nuggets, winning 116-102 Friday to take a 3-0 lead in the second-round series.

All 142 teams that went up 3-0 in a best-of-seven series have won the series – usually in a sweep. Game 4 is Sunday.

Jokic did so much to avoid this fate. His stat line – 32 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists – has been matched in the playoffs by only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970 Bucks-Knicks) and Wilt Chamberlain (1967 76ers-Royals). Jokic even had more points, rebounds and assists than Denver’s other starters.

But Jokic’s defensive intensity waned amid such a heavy burden. His sagging defense was a key reason Devin Booker (28 points) and Paul (27 points and eight assists) got rolling. Those Phoenix guards have just dictated the series – which could end soon.