Nuggets Nikola Jokic defends Suns Devin Booker and fouls him in the second quarter of game 5 of the second round of the Western Conference NBA Playoffs at Ball Arena on Tuesday, May 9, 2023. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

What can Brown do for the Nuggets?


When the Nuggets would have a letdown or let up on the Suns Tuesday night Bruce Brown of the bench would bring it. Browns outscored the Suns reserves by himself, 23-16. With 3:31 left in Game 5 the man who can play all five positions also had outscored three of the Suns starters.

Nikola Jokic, with yet another triple-double, got the assistance he needed from Brown, Michael Porter Jr., Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon — all five were in double figures scoring — as the Nuggets blew the Suns out of The Jar, 118-102.

What did the Nuggets do?

Get physical!

The Suns are Devin Booker and Kevin Durant — all or nothing. But their 54 combined points in 83 combined minutes wasn’t much of anything in comparison to the Nuggets team of eight that, before trash time, was 50 percent on two-points attempts (42 of 84) and 50 percent on three-point shots (13 of 26).

If the Nuggets can hold Booker and Durant to fewer than 75-100 points Thursday night the series will be over, and the Nuggets will reach the Western Conference finals against the Lakers, probably, or the Warriors, maybe.

The Nuggets came out Tuesday night as if their white-and-red uniforms were on fire, scoring the first nine points and pushing the lead to 31-18 with 2:30 left in the opening quarter.

Yet, the Suns didn’t quit.

The Suns were able to close the gap, and even take a one-point lead briefly in the second quarter, as Booker scored 19 and Durant, after a miserable start making only 5 of 16 attempts (0 of 3 from the three-point line), finished the half with 13.

However, in the second half, it was 6-on-2 for the Nuggets. Booker couldn’t do enough. Both had four personal fouls; Durant drew a technical out of frustration when he shoved Jokic at the Suns bench; Booker was only 8 of 19 from the field, and Durant, as he did in Denver in the first two games, was not a Marvel superhero, missing 14 shots and all three of his floaters from beyond the arc.

Good thing the NBA didn’t suspend Jokic.

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But The Joker got the last laugh.

Before the game in warmups Nikola carried a basketball to a fan sitting in the front row on the opposite side of the court. The fan was Suns owner Mat Ishbia. The two engaged in an incident that drew national and even world attention in Game 4 in Phoenix.

This time Jokic handed the ball to Ishbia, as if to say, “If you want a ball so bad, here’s one," then they shook hands, and Jokic walked to the locker room with a big smile. Joker would give out 12 assists in the game, pull down 13 rebounds and score 29 points.

Ishbia had to sit still.

Colorado could be much worse off. Mat Ishbia, the Suns’ puerile fanboy owner, tried to buy the Broncos.

Providentially, Ishbia and brother Justin never had a spittle of a chance against the Walton-Penner group. They were just a carnival sideshow dismissed by the NFL and the Broncos.

Then they purchased the Suns.

Sorry, Arizona.

People in Denver had forgotten about Mat Ishbia until his silly stupid stunt during the fourth game of the Nuggets-Suns series when he clutched the basketball as if it were a souvenir he could run home with.

Ishbia apparently believed he was once again a walk-on at Michigan State, where he averaged 0.6 points and 0.3 rebounds. The only way he could get back into the game was to buy the Suns for $4 billion. The Broncos were sold for $4.65 million.

In addition to his low bid for the Broncos, Ishbia was involved in the “Midnight Melvin’’ move.

Mel Tucker became the University of Colorado football coach in 2019, compiled a 5-7 record and promised that he was staying. However, he accepted a job and a massive raise to leave for Michigan State. Then, in 2021, the Spartans gave Tucker a $10-year, $95 million contract — that reportedly was prepared by Ishbia and another guy, who are responsible for paying $24 million of the deal.

But Ishbia and the Suns couldn’t buy a victory for the third game in Denver.

Jokic, Brown and the Nuggets brought the heat on the Suns.

Woody Paige has been a sports and general columnist in Colorado with the Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, The Colorado Springs Gazette and The Denver Gazette since 1974. He has been a commentator for the ESPN network on six different shows for 20 years.

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