The Jerusalem Post

Suns close out Nuggets with sweep as Nicola Jokic ejected

Bucks even series with Nets as All-Star Kyrie Irving injured

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Chris Paul scored 37 points, Devin Booker had 34 points and 11 rebounds, and the visiting Phoenix Suns beat the Denver Nuggets 125-118 on Sunday night to sweep the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, the NBA MVP, was given a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected late in the third quarter. He finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Mikal Bridges scored 14 points, Deandre Ayton had 12 points and Jae Crowder had 10 rebounds and four blocks to go with nine points for the Suns, who reached the conference finals for the first time in 11 years.

Will Barton had 25 points, Michael Porter Jr. scored 20, Monte Morris finished with 19 and Facu Campazzo 14 for Denver.

The Nuggets struggled in the third quarter of the first three games but came out strong after halftime Sunday night. Porter hit a 3-pointer to help cut an eightpoint deficit to 71-70 with 7:46 left.

Things turned soon after. Paul made a trio of midrange jumpers to keep Phoenix in the lead, and after Ayton’s alley-oop on a pass from Booker put the Suns ahead 83-75, tempers flared.

Jokic missed a 12-footer and then took a hard swipe at the ball after Cameron Payne got the rebound. Booker went chest-tochest with Jokic as officials, players and coaches separated the two. Jokic was hit with the Flagrant 2 foul and was ejected with 3:52 left.

He went over and shook Payne’s hand as he left the court.

Phoenix quickly built a 15-point lead and led 96-83 heading into the fourth quarter.

Denver showed some fight after that, cutting the lead to 99-93 on a 3-pointer by Porter. Barton hit another from deep and JaVale McGee split a pair of free throws to make it 101-97. The Suns built the lead back up to eight with 5:15 left.

Paul converted a three-point play and had a steal and a layup to make it 114-103 and Phoenix closed it out.

Phoenix led by as many as 10 in the first half, saw the Nuggets close within two, and led 63-55 halftime lead.

IN MILWAUKEE, Giannis Antetokoun­mpo collected 34 points and 12 rebounds as the host Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 107-96 victory Sunday in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals over the Brooklyn Nets, who lost All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to a sprained right ankle.

The series is tied at two games apiece and Game 5 is on Tuesday in Brooklyn. Although X-rays of Irving’s ankle were negative, his availabili­ty for the remainder of the series is uncertain.

The Bucks followed up winning a defensive struggle in Game 3 on Thursday to assure the series will last at least six games.

Antetokoun­mpo matched his playoff-high scoring game in this postseason by shooting 14 of 26 from the field. He scored 12 points in the decisive third quarter, when the Bucks took control.

Khris Middleton followed up his 35-point showing from Game 3 by adding 19 points and eight assists as the Bucks made 44.3% of their shots and hit 16 3-pointers. This came after they had managed to make only 22.7% (20-of-88) from behind the arc in the first three games of the series.

Jrue Holiday added 14 points and nine assists and PJ Tucker chipped in 13 when he was not shadowing Kevin Durant defensivel­y.

Durant totaled 28 points and 13 boards but the Nets gradually fell apart after Irving was injured on a layup with 6:04 remaining left in the second quarter. Irving fell to the floor in pain after awkwardly stepping on Antetokoun­mpo’s foot following a made layup.

Durant struggled against Tucker’s physicalit­y, making only 9 of 25 shots, including just 1-for-8 3-point attempts. The Nets committed 17 turnovers.

Irving finished with 11 points in his 17 minutes of action, as no other Net reached double figures in their third straight game with James Harden watching from the sidelines due to right hamstring tightness.

The Nets led early, building an 11-point lead before the Bucks rallied. Milwaukee went on a 21-4 surge, and Irving’s injury occurred soon after Antetokoun­mpo’s dunk put Milwaukee ahead for good at 37-36. From there the Bucks gradually pulled away.

Milwaukee held a 53-48 lead at halftime, surged to a 74-57 lead on a 3-pointer by Bryn Forbes with 3:37 left in the third quarter. When Middleton hit a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds on the clock they carried an 81-69 lead into the fourth quarter.

Milwaukee took a 97-78 edge with about seven minutes left on a 3-pointer by Holiday and finished off when Antetokoun­mpo’s dunk made it 101-84 with 3:46 left and in the final minutes chants of “Bucks in Six” were heard from the sellout crowd of 16,310.

(Reuters)

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