|Game 40: 2013-14 NBA Season|
|Series 2-0 Suns|
|January 19th, 2014|
|US Airways Center - Phoenix, AZ
|6:00 PM MT|
|Altitude / 950 AM
|Ty Lawson||PG||Goran Dragic|
|Wilson Chandler||SF||P.J. Tucker|
|Denver Stiffs||Blogs||Bright Side of the Sun|
Danilo Gallinari (knee), JaVale McGee (leg), Darrell Arthur (left hip strain) are all out, Brian Shaw (sinus infection) is stuffy and may need Kleenex throughout
||Injuries||Emeka Okafor (herniated disc) and Eric Bledsoe (knee) are both out, Leandro Barbosa (right shoulder) is day to day|
|Lawson averages 21 points and 5.5 assists against the Suns this season||Etc...||Dragic averages 17 points and 6 assists against the Nuggets this season|
The Nuggets are going to need to win the final two games against the Suns for playoff purposes. With Phoenix sitting in the eighth and final playoff spot at the moment and the Nuggets at tenth, the two teams could very well be battling for playoff position the rest of the way. It's crazy to think we are just about to the halfway mark of this 2013-14 campaign.
Your fearless blogger is here in Phoenix. I will be in attendance for the second time in two seasons here at the US Airways Center and for the second straight road game. This also means I'll be watching the Patriots vs. Broncos game away from good old Colorado, but the double-dip of Broncos and live Nuggets is going to be awesome.
Let's do things a bit differently for this contest. This preview will be brought to you through movie quotes from the 2006 hit Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. If you have yet to see this movie - it's a comedy that revolves around NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby, played by one Will Ferrell. Away we go ...
Susan: It's because it's what you love, Ricky. It is who you were born to be. And here you sit, thinking. Well, Ricky Bobby is not a thinker. Ricky Bobby is a driver. He is a doer. And that's what you need to do. You don't need to think. You need to drive. You need speed. You need to go out there, and you need to rev your engine. You need to fire it up. You need to grab a hold of that line between speed and chaos, and you need to wrestle it to the ground like a demon cobra! And then, when the fear rises up in your belly, you use it. And you know that fear is powerful, because it has been there for billions of years. And it is good. And you use it. And you ride it; you ride it like a skeleton horse through the gates of hell, and then you win, Ricky. You WIN! And you don't win for anybody else. You win for you, you know why? Because a man takes what he wants. He takes it all. And you're a man, aren't you? Aren't you?
Phoenix likes to run and the Nuggets have running in their blood - it's what they were "born" to do. Get that blend of run-and-gun going, play solid defense and execute in the half-court when you need to do so. This Nuggets team can be so fun to watch when they are sharing the ball and shooting well. Heck, what team isn't fun to watch when they are shooting well? This could be a really fun game and a fast game, hopefully the Nuggets heed Susan's speech.
Jean Girard: [has Ricky in an arm lock] I will let you go, Ricky. But first, I want you to say..."I... love... crepes."
Cal Naughton, Jr.: Don't you say it, Ricky. These colors don't run.
Ricky Bobby: I'm not gonna say it.
Cal Naughton, Jr.: Good.
Ricky Bobby: Hey, look, Frenchy, I thought about it. So why don't you go ahead and break my arm?
Jean Girard: I do not want to break your arm, Monsieur Bobby, but I am a man of my word.
Jean Girard did wind up breaking Ricky's arm ... because like he said, he's a man of his word. Since getting consistent minutes since January 1st, Evan Fournier has been backing up Brian Shaw's faith in him with good play on the floor. My colleague, Colin Neilson, recently wrote about Fours' play as of late and he's right on the spot. Fournier is averaging 11.2 points on 51.3% shooting in January, including 44% three-point shooting on four attempts per game in 20.9 minutes per contest. You gotta love that! Evan has been providing consistent scoring off the bench, but has only combined for 11 points in his last two games. Let's see how Evan plays against the Suns.
Texas Ranger: Someone didn't love you enough when you were little, did they?
Markieff Morris is in his third season in the league and is having a nice little breakout season. He was the 13th pick in the 2011 draft and at just 24 years-old he's starting to come into his own. His points per game have gone up in each season so far from 7.4, to 8.2, and now to 12.1 on a career-best 47% shooting. He's a nice weapon to bring off the bench and plays about 24 minutes per game. I was surprised to learn that he hasn't started a game this season and plays as part of Jeff Hornacek's bench-mob with his brother Marcus Morris (the 14th pick in the 2011 draft), who is averaging 10.2 points per game this season in just over 22 minutes per game.
It's pretty cool that the twins are on the same team and getting to play together for the Suns, and playing well. Hopefully the Nuggets are paying attention to the two because Markieff is averaging 26.5 points against Denver and Marcus is putting up 12.5 against the Nuggets.
Chip: I can't hold my tongue. These kids are my grandchildren and you are raising them wrong. They are *terrible* boys!
I have to admit, when Matt Moore released his Hornacek piece back on January 2nd, I was pretty worried about the Nuggets. Denver had just lost their eighth game in a row, Andre Miller erupted on the bench, the team announced Miller's suspension, and Brian Shaw delayed practice with THE AIRING OF GRIEVANCES! aka team and individual meetings.
Reading Moore's article, I couldn't help but compare the words he was saying and getting from Hornacek with what should have been going on in Denver. Moore described a team playing together and a coaching staff doing all they could to support their players. The Phoenix Suns are a feel good story and a good team.
Things have turned around for the Nuggets and I have been confused by the AIRING OF GRIEVANCES! because I believe the Nuggets coaching staff is an excellent group of men who are working hard to build something in Denver. I also think the Nuggets have a solid group of players. Hard to think, from what I've seen, that there could be too many issues ... but now that the rotation has been solidified and grievances aired, things are looking up.
Texas Ranger: Old man, I'm gonna come at you like a spider monkey!
Sure, Lawson is 26 years-old and Dragic is just 27 years-old, but I will still try to make this quote work. Lawson and Dragic have had some nice head-to-head battles. I still remember Dragic getting under Lawson's skin a bit over the years and in one game in particular. Is Dragic an instigator or just a hard competitor? Lawson and Gragic got a little heated once and recently, Nick Young of the Lakers got into it with some Suns and Dragic was one of those players involved (video here).
I tend to think that guys underrate Dragic and perhaps believe they should dominate him, but he frustrates with his aggressive play and his good play. He also has the lefty thing going for him and can stretch the floor (36.4% from deep). It's always a good show when these two point guards go head-to-head and I'm looking forward to seeing how they match up.
Ricky Bobby: No one lives forever, no one. But with advances in modern science and my high level income, it's not crazy to think I can live to be 245, maybe 300. Heck, I just read in the newspaper that they put a pig heart in some guy from Russia. Do you know what that means?
The Suns were 19-11 and cruising along and then Eric Bledsoe went down with a knee injury - the team's second leading scoring (18 points per game). In the nine games Bledsoe has missed, the team is just 3-6 and just 1-4 in their last five games. Will this good thing come to an end or can the team get back on track?
The Nuggets have been such a streaky team. They won seven in a row, lost eight in a row, won five in a row, got a tough win in Golden State and followed that up with a home loss to the Cavaliers, who are just (now) 5-17 away from home. Can the Nuggets become a more consistent squad?
We'll see what happens tonight.