Suns vs Nuggets preview: A tale of two coaches

Wilson Chandler sizes up P.J. Tucker in the corner - Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

Phoenix travels to Denver looking to sweep the Nuggets for the first time since the 2004-05 season.

Game 52: 2013-14 NBA Season
@

30-21 (13-12 road)
Series 3-0
24-27 (14-11 home)
February 18th, 2014
Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
7:00 PM MT
Altitude / 950 AM

Goran Dragic PG Randy Foye
Gerald Green SG Wilson Chandler
P.J. Tucker SF Darrell Arthur
Channing Frye PF Kenneth Faried
Miles Plumlee C J.J. Hickson
Notes
Bright Side of the Sun Blogs You're here!
Emeka Okafor (herniated disc) is out, Eric Bledsoe (right knee arthoscopy) is out Injuries Danilo Gallinari (knee) is out, JaVale McGee(leg fracture) is out, Nate Robinson (ACL sprain) is out, Ty Lawson (rib fracture) is doubtful
Phoenix is first in the NBA in fast break points averaging 18.5 per game
Denver has lost 3 consecutive games by 17+ points.

Nine first time NBA head coaches were hired this past offseason.  Two of them will square off at the Pepsi Center tonight.  Jeff Hornacek took over a Phoenix team expected to finish last place in the Western Conference.  Brian Shaw took over a 57-win playoff team expecting to regress, but still find its way into the post season for the 11th straight time.  At the All-Star break, both teams find themselves on opposite trajectories.

Denver has lost 6 of 8 and has been blown out in four straight games.  Three of those blow out losses were at the hands of non-playoff teams with losing records.  I had the pleasure of traveling up to Minneapolis for last Wednesday's drubbing against the Timberwolves.  There was not enough Surly Bender to keep me there past the third quarter.  At this juncture of the season, there is no alternative but full on tank mode.  While the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have had seasons resembling the Titanic, big money investments that have sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings; the Denver Nuggets closely resemble a more modest tragedy, the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  The Edmund Fitzgerald was not a luxury ship with East Coast ties, but a Midwestern freighter carrying iron ore that sank in Lake Superior in 1958.  The Titanic has the Oscars and Leo, but the Edmund Fitzgerald was immortalized with a great folk song by Gordon Lightfoot.  Eat your heart out Celine Dion.

Phoenix, lead by their new head coach, is experiencing new life as they rise up the standings into playoff position.  If only I could think of an analogy for ascending from the dead and rising to prominence with the fury of the sun.  Oh well.  Hornacek is most known as the starting shooting guard for the Utah Jazz in the mid-nineties.  He was an integral part of the back to back Finals appearances which both resulted in losses to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.  Hornacek only spent two years with the Utah Jazz as an assistant coach before accepting the head coaching position with Phoenix.  Today, he is arguably the favorite to win NBA Coach of the Year.

Brian Shaw has dealt with several major injuries, but with the exception of Ty Lawson and maybe Timofey Mozgov, every player has regressed.  None of the secondary players that needed to step forward have risen to the challenge.  Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton, and the extremely small sample size of JaVale McGee all point toward an inability to nurture young talent.  If we are fortunate enough to land one of the highly talented incoming rookies of this year's draft, should we put that player on watch for one of Jalen Rose's "guy drafted by the wrong team?"  One of Shaw's selling points was his ability to stimulate growth in young talent.  He came from Indiana where middle first round draft picks like Paul George and Roy Hibbert developed into All-Stars.  One season is not enough to write off Shaw, but if this trend continues Denver should consider following Phoenix's lead by hiring a second round draft pick from Iowa State with at least 10 years of playing experience in The League and no professional head coaching experience. I am, of course, referring to "The Mayor" Fred Hoiberg.

Beer I am drinking during tonight's game: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald

I think while we are down double digits throughout the fourth quarter of tonight's game I will crank up my speakers playing Gordon Lightfoot on repeat while downing a six pack of the greatest product Cleveland has ever produced, the Edmund Fitzgerald porter by Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Go Nuggets! (but seriously, let's get into the top seven in the draft)

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