The Denver Nuggets are coming off their biggest home victory of the early season. A second victory against the Houston Rockets was highlighted by the total of zero points coming from Ty Lawson and ran Denver's win streak up to three games. However, the good feelings and back pats will be short lived as, for the second time this season, the Nuggets are on a back to back and head to Phoenix for a western showdown tonight. Handlebar mustaches and cowboy hats are optional.
Phoenix has had a couple days off after what has to be considered their biggest win of the season, a 118-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers that saw Brandon Knight explode for 37 points. Still, the last time the Nuggets and Suns saw each other, the Suns were at the hands of a good ol' fashioned butt whipping at The Can. The teams are fairly even record wise this year, with both hovering right around five hundred. Now that the games count, Phoenix will look to get a little revenge while Denver looks to extend their winning streak to four games.
Who: Denver Nuggets (5-4) at Phoenix Suns (4-4)
When: 7:00pm MST
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix AZ
How to Watch: Altitude 2, NBATV
Rival Blog: Bright Side of the Sun
|Bench||John Leuer, Mirza Teletovic, T.J. Warren, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Sonny Weems, Devin Booker
||, , ,|
Injured players: Jusuf Nurkic- knee (out), Wilson Chandler- hip (out), Joffrey Lauvergne- back (questionable), Ronnie Price- concussion (doubtful), Markieff Morris- knee (questionable)
Key Matchup: Nuggets back court vs Suns back court
The Suns duo of Knight and Eric Bledsoe is coming off their best game of the season. Knight tied his career high in scoring and Bledsoe was one assist shy of a triple double. Meanwhile, the Nuggets young back court of Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris is coming off a fairly forgettable performance against the Rockets that saw them combine for just five points (though Mudiay did have 11 assists). Mudiay probably can't shoot it any worse than he did last night so look for a bounce back game from him, Harris meanwhile should be well rested after logging only 11 minutes against the Rockets, which brings me to the X-factor: Will Barton. Barton has got off to an excellent start this season and is making an early case for both the Most Improved Player of the Year award as well as the Sixth Man of the Year award. No game has this been more prevalent than last night where Barton tied his career high of 26 points. Phoenix is thin off the bench at the 2 guard so Barton could be due for another big night. Oh yeah, he also did this last night.
What to watch for: Energy
The last time Denver was on the second night of a back to back it was against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Nuggets came out flat and got buried early. They had a spirited effort in the second half, led by ahem...Will Barton, but still ended up on the wrong end of a blow out. Phoenix certainly isn't Golden State but they have the athleticism and speed to get up and run and could put Denver behind early. Plus, if you're reading between the lines, Denver almost sounds as if they are chalking this one up as a loss already. Evidence Danilo Gallinari's post game quote last night where he said "we were looking at this week saying we need to get these three at home and we did." Gallo may need a reminder that his work week is not quite done and there is still the matter of this game in Phoenix to attend to.
The return of the king.
Joffrey Lauvergne is targeting tonight for his return to the lineup after missing the previous six games dealing with a back strain. The Nuggets have fared pretty well in his absence as J.J. Hickson has filled in admirably (yes, I just said that). Still, early returns on King Joffrey have been good and it will be encouraging to see him back out on the court if he can go. He'll likely have to deal with Tyson Chandler and Alex Len so it will be no cake walk. For many reasons, it would be nice to see his majesty have a big game tonight.
Prediction: Nuggets run out of gas late and lose 110-98.
Finally, I'd like to take this moment to express my, and all of Denver Stiffs, condolences and prayers for the families and friends of the victims of the tragedy that occurred in Paris last night. There are no words that can be said to heal the unfathomable pain that has been caused but know that we stand with you. Vive La France.