Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic shoots over Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

After eliminating the defending NBA champions in the first round, the Phoenix Suns took on the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals. Four players scored 20 or more points for the Suns as they won Game 1 comfortably (122-105).

Denver was led by Nikola Jokic who had 22 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. Postgame, the Serbian center spoke respectfully about his direct opponent DeAndre Ayton who finished the game with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“I really appreciate and I think he is a great, first of all, person,” Jokic said. “He always talks to me on the floor. I appreciate that. He’s a good guy. He’s the best in the league in the field goal percentage. He’s not missing a lot of shots. He knows what he needs to do, he’s doing that on a really high level.

“He’s really like a two-way center. He’s playing on both ends of the floor. You can see that he is talking with his teammates. He wants to be even better. For someone who is young to have that kind of mentality I think you cannot ask for a better mentality.”

Ayton, who was the number one draft pick in 2018, was asked about Joker’s comments. “Wow, he said that? That’s lit. I love playing against Jokic. That’s the MVP of our league. He has so much. He has a lot to cover. The dude can do everything. That’s just the modern center right there.

“He’s just a dude who you have to watch out for drives, he can shoot, he can do everything, he can playmake for his teammates. Just coming in every day in and out, learning what he loves to do just coming competing, man. One day he could be that dude on the film and one day he won’t be that dude on the film when you watch everything he does. Just got to keep competing and just stay locked in.”