What happens when the two highest scoring teams in the NBA go head-to-head? The Nuggets win in a snoozer because the Suns will be playing the second of a back-to-back...
I've had the priviledge of seeing every MVP from the past 25-plus years play live - Bird, Magic, MJ, Hakeem, Barkley, Robinson, Malone, Iverson, Duncan, Shaq, Dirk, Kobe, LeBron - except one: the Suns' Steve Nash. With me splitting my time between Los Angeles and Denver, Nash and I just haven't been in the same place at the same time. That ends tonight.
Nash has been one of my favorite non-Nuggets over the years. How could he not be? He has vastly improved his game over the years, makes the game more fun for the fans and is fiercely loyal, evident by his stupid decision to re-sign with the going-nowhere Phoenix Suns last summer. I was firmly planted in the Nash-for-MVP camp in 2005-06 and 2006-07 (Nash won in 2004-05 and 05-06, although I thought Shaquille O'Neal deserved it that first year) and wish he was surrounded with better teammates for one more championship run. Steve Nash is one of the many reasons why I love the NBA.
Unfortunately for me and 15,000 or so other Nuggets fans, however, we're not going to see Nash - or the Suns - at their best. They played a tough, down-to-the-wire game against the Magic in Phoenix last night, and presumably flew in sometime very early this morning into Denver. As Nate pointed out in his preview and recap of the Warriors game a few weeks ago, teams traveling east to Denver almost never win (they literally never win, teams coming from the Pacific Time Zone - which Phoenix isn't in - into Denver are 1-18...Nate and I are still checking to see how many years that covers).
Like most games against opponents coming from the west, tonight's game won't be a fair fight for the Suns. And while it will be nice to see a Nuggets home victory, at the end of the day it's the ticket-paying fan like me who gets screwed with a boring game, like the walkover victory over the Lakers earlier in the season.
But for the first half or so when Nash has some energy, he should be fun to watch. What about the other Suns?...
-Louis Amundson: If Amundson were on the Nuggets, we'd all love him. He's from Boulder, he hustles, plays hard, plays tough and frustrates opposing big men into stupid technical fouls. He's like a bigger, more athletic version of Bill Hanzlik. But since Amundson plays for the opposition and when we last saw him he baited our own Nene into a stupid head butt (and as a result, a two-game suspension), we're going to boo him mercilessly tonight.
-Channing Frye: At 6'11" and 245 pounds, Frye is a giant of a man. But while Frye is having a nice rebound season in Phoenix (so would you or I if we played with Steve Nash), he still shoots an abyssmal 44.5% from the field. Remarkably, Frye shoots almost as well from behind-the-arc (an impressive 43.5%) as he does from the interior...and he takes 5.7 three's per game! I see a number of Nene breakout layups tonight off Frye bricks...
-Leandro Barbosa: The "Brazilian Blur" (I always thought that meant something else...just ask anyone who's been to Rio) manages to slip more and more with each passing season. Peaking out at 18.1 ppg four seasons ago, Barbosa's scoring outpit has dipped annually and is down to 11.6, his worst average in six seasons. Barbosa's been banged up with a sprained ankle and won't be playing tonight.
Suns Non-Stiffs (other than Steve Nash)
-Amar'e Stoudemire: Or as we refer to him in Denver - "the second great player that Kiki Vandeweghe passed over to stupidly draft Nikoloz Tskitishvili". After showing up in training camp a bit out of shape, Stoudemire is having a fine season, capped off last night with his game-winning offensive rebound and huge slam dunk while the Magic's Dwight Howard was still on the floor.
-Jason Richardson: Richardson seems to have regained some of what made him so lethal in Golden State. He's also draining three's at an impressive 40.7% clip and is shooting a career second-best 48.5% from the field.
-Grant Hill: Hill's numbers don't wow you and his field goal percentage is down this year, but this guy is still producing. Who knew that after the all the injuries/recoveries that Hill has had to undergo that he'd still be going strong at 37 years old? Hill could have gone the Anfernee Hardaway or Steve Francis route, taken his money and called it a career. But instead, Hill has managed to have a lengthy, more-than-respectable career. He's anything but a Stiff.
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: Paul Connors