Suns Notes: Nurkic, Booker, Little, Okogie, Playoff Prospects

The Suns were dispatched by the Nuggets pretty easily in last year’s playoffs, but Phoenix’s offseason additions could make a difference if the teams meet again, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jusuf Nurkic isn’t as talented or athletic as Deandre Ayton, but he provides a more physical presence to match up with Nikola Jokic in a seven-game series. Nurkic had seven points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals as the Suns pulled out an overtime win in Denver Tuesday night.

“We’re most definitely different,” Kevin Durant said. “Adding (Bradley) Beal and Grayson (Allen) and Nurk makes us a different team than last year. But having more experience as a unit helps a lot as well. Last year, we were thrown together pretty quickly, and we were playing against a well-oiled machine. We have nothing but respect for Denver. They challenge us in ways that other teams don’t, so it was good to fight through everything tonight.”

Although Phoenix can’t expect Nurkic to shut down his former teammate, Jones points out that he presents problems for Jokic that few other Western centers do. Nurkic is strong enough to match up with Jokic in the low post without the need for a double team, which limits open opportunities for Denver’s shooters.

There’s more on the Suns:

  • Coach Frank Vogel describes Devin Booker as “day-to-day” with the sprained right ankle he suffered late in Saturday’s game, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Booker is already ruled out for Thursday’s contest with Toronto, but with a projected timeline of five-to-14 days, Rankin notes that he could be back as early as Monday. “We’ll see how he is over the weekend and into next week,” Vogel said.
  • Nassir Little received a platelet-rich plasma injection for inflammation in his left knee and Vogel expects him to be sidelined “for a week or so,” Rankin tweets. Josh Okogie has been diagnosed with a lower abdominal strain, Rankin adds.
  • The past week showed why the Suns are so dangerous but so hard to predict heading into the playoffs, observes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. The surprising win at Denver followed back-to-back home losses to Houston and Oklahoma City. While injuries have limited the time that the starting five have played together, Bourguet points out that they have the fourth-best ranking of any five-man lineup in the league that has logged at least 250 minutes. He adds that during their only real healthy stretch of the season — from late December through the All-Star break — the Suns posted a 19-7 record.
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