Nuggets' wild win vs. Suns in OT puts them alone atop Western Conference in NBA's Christmas finale

Two Western Conference contenders in the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns went head-to-head to end the NBA's five-game Christmas slate on Sunday, and 48 minutes weren't enough to determine this back-and-forth battle that included both teams overcoming double-digit deficits. Ultimately, it was the Nuggets who walked away with a 128-125 overtime win. 

Nikola Jokic led the way for Denver with a monster triple-double -- 41 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists. Jokic also got some serious help from Aaron Gordon (28 points, eight rebounds) and Jamal Murray (26 points, five assists). The win gave the Nuggets some separation at the top of the Western Conference standings, as they now have a one game lead over both the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies. 

The game marked the return of Devin Booker for Phoenix after the all-star guard missed the previous three games with a groin injury. However, Booker's return was short-lived as he exited after just four minutes and was ruled out for the remainder of the game after reaggravating the injury. The Suns put forth a valiant effort without their leading scorer, but they fell short in the end. Landry Shamet led the way for Phoenix with 31 points and six assists, and DeAndre Ayton added 22 points and 16 rebounds. 

Overall, the game was a treat for fans. Luckily, we won't have to wait too long for the rematch, as the two teams are set to square off again on Jan. 11. Before moving forward, though, here's a look at a few key takeaways from Denver's Christmas win over Phoenix. 

Christmas history for Jokic

With his production against the Suns, Nikola Jokic made NBA history by becoming just the third player ever to record a 30-point triple-double on Christmas. The other two players to do so were James Harden and Oscar Robertson. The 41 points that Jokic finished with were also the most ever scored in a triple-double on Christmas and the most ever scored by a Nuggets player on the holiday. The triple-double was the seventh of the season for Jokic, and the 82nd of his decorated career.

Only three players in NBA history have won the MVP Award in three consecutive seasons, but if he continues to play the way he has lately, Jokic will have an opportunity to become the fourth. 

Aaron Gordon's dunk of the year contender

Aaron Gordon had a great game against Phoenix. In 41 minutes of action, he had 28 points, 13 rebounds and one monstrous throwdown that immediately shoots to the top of the dunk of the year contender conversation. 

With under 30 seconds remaining in overtime and the Nuggets leading by one, Gordon gathered the ball, galloped down the court and uncorked a ferocious slam over Landry Shamet, who tried to draw a charge. If you didn't see the dunk, you'll want to see it, and if you already saw it, you'll certainly want to see it again. Check it out:  

The dunk was initially called as a charge on the court, but upon further review the call was overturned, the basket counted and Gordon was granted a foul shot. The dramatic delay only added to the impact of the dunk, as did the magnitude of the moment. 

Unfortunately for Shamet, that's one of those dunks that you're going to see over and over again in highlights. It was a great gift from Gordon to NBA fans. 

A brief return for Booker

Devin Booker's return to game action didn't last too long, unfortunately for Phoenix. After missing the previous three games due to a groin injury, Booker decided to give it a go on Christmas, and he got off to a solid start. Just over a minute into the game, Booker beat his defender on the perimeter and slithered into the lane for a fancy finish that gave the Suns their first bucket of the game. 

Booker looked good on that play, but it would end up being his first -- and final -- basket of the evening. He played just a couple more minutes before being subbed out. Moments later, he was ruled out for the rest of the game. 

This game might have turned out differently had Booker been able to continue, but his long-term health is more important to Phoenix than the outcome of a single regular-season contest. Now the Suns just have to hope that the injury isn't one that lingers for too much longer. We'll likely learn more about Booker's status in the coming days.  

Phoenix's bench stepped up 

Phoenix's bench came to play in this game. Over the course of the contest, the Suns bench outscored Denver's bench 58-11. That's a staggering 47-point differential in a game that was determined by just three points, but ultimately it still wasn't enough for the Suns to walk away with a win, as Denver's starters outscored Phoenix's first five 117-67. For comparison's sake, the Suns average 34.5 bench points per game on the season. 

Landry Shamet led the way off of the wood for Phoenix with 31 points and six assists, and Damion Lee also added 18 points and eight rebounds. Despite the loss, the effort was still commendable after the Suns lost Booker just a few minutes into the game. 

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This Jokic line is crazy: 41 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists. 


This one is over. Nuggets win 128-125. Really good game to cap off a fun day of hoops on Christmas. 


Landry Shamet is keeping the Suns in this game in OT with his shot making. He's up to 31 points on the evening. 


Chris Paul misses two important free throws in OT. He's just 5 of 10 from the line in this game. 


48 minutes weren't enough to determine a winner, This game is going into overtime tied at 113. 

@Suns via Twitter
December 26, 2022, 6:18 AM

Suns up 1 with 30 seconds left. This one is coming all the way down to the wire. 


Jamal Murray is hitting some BIG shots for the Nuggets down the stretch of this game. 


Aaron Gordon has had several dunks this game. 


Jokic becomes just the third player ever to have a 30 point triple-double on Christmas. James Harden and Oscar Robertson are the other two. 


The Suns have six players in double figures. Four for the Nuggets. 


Landry Shamet continues to hit big shots for the Suns tonight. 


Will be interesting to see where Phoenix's offense comes from down the stretch without Booker in the game. Guessing we'll see a heavy dose of Chris Paul in the pick-and-roll action. 


Both teams are shooting over 45 percent from the field through three quarters of action. 

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