Bob Kemp


        *THE SUNS SECOND-HALF DEFENSE WAS THE DIFFERENCE: After the Nuggets scored 58 points and shot 53 percent in the first half, the Suns held the Nuggets to 47 points and 40 percent (18 of 45) after halftime. It was an extension of the first round when the Suns were the most efficient defense of the 16 teams participating.
        *MORE SUNS DEFENSE: They allowed just 19 points in the game-turning third quarter, including scoring 16 straight in one stretch that became a 25-7 run to end the stanza.
        *DEANDRE AYTON HAD FAR MORE OF AN IMPACT THAN NIKOLA JOKIC: Statistically, Ayton finished with
20 points on nine of 13 from the field plus 10 rebounds with JUST ONE FOUL. Jokic had 23 points on 10 of 23 from the field with zero free throw attempts, three assists and four turnovers.
        *CHRIS PAUL CLOSED THE DEAL: Paul scored or assisted on 20 of the Suns 34 fourth-quarter points. For the game, he had 21 points and 11 assists, his first double-double of the post-season.
        *MIKAL BRIDGES HAD A CHANCE TO CONCENTRATE MORE AT THE OFFENSIVE: He made eight of 12 field goals, including four of eight from behind the arc, plus five assists and just one turnover. Some of his success was because of not having to defend the injured Jamal Murray (out for the season) or Michael Porter Jr. who left because of injury during the second half.
        *THE SUNS DID NOT NEED A SPECTACULAR SCORING GAME FROM DEVIN BOOKER: He still managed an efficient 22 points on just eight of 12 field goal attempts and eight assists.