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Preview: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns

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Stinging from a bitter defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets head to Phoenix to try to wrest a victory from the Suns

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

After losing their first two matchups to the Phoenix Suns, the Denver Nuggets look for redemption in Valley of the Sun.  The Nuggets are on the second night of a back-to-back, having been dispatched by the not-quite-hapless Lakers at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday despite a 23-point first half from Will Barton.  The Nuggets fell apart after halftime and coughed up a 21 point lead in yet another defensive eyesore of a game.  Injuries keep mounting, with Danilo Gallinari's ankle turn and Gary Harris's tweaked knee the latest tally marks.  Both men may play tonight, with Gallo the more likely to be scratched.

The Suns are just looking for consistency.  They are freely swapping around members of the starting lineup looking for a sustainable spark, as Devin Booker and T.J. Warren took their turn amongst the starting five against the Utah Jazz.  It didn't help, as the Suns blew the third quarter with an awful 18-point effort instead of their customary fourth quarter woes and went down on Monday 110-89 to one of the slowest-paced teams in the NBA.   The Nuggets hope to keep the Suns down instead of letting them get healthy at Denver's expense - again.

The Basics:

Who: The Phoenix Suns (6-5) at The Denver Nuggets (6-6)

When: 7:00 PM MT

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix AZ

How to watch: Altitude

Rival Blog: Bright Side of the Sun


Phoenix Suns
Denver Nuggets Advantage
PG Eric Bledsoe
Jameer Nelson Suns
SG Brandon Knight
Gary Harris Suns
SF P.J. Tucker
Kostas Papanikolaou Nuggets
PF John Leuer
Kenneth Faried Even
C Tyson Chandler Joffrey Lauvergne Suns
Bench Mirza TeletovicT.J. WarrenAlex LenArchie GoodwinSonny WeemsDevin Booker, Markieff Morris Darrell Arthur, Will BartonNikola JokicRandy FoyeJ.J. HicksonMike Miller

Even

Injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (out), Wilson Chandler (out), Emmanuel Mudiay (out), Danilo Gallinari (questionable).

Note: these starting lineups could be completely wrong.  Neither team is especially settled in what they are doing and who is out there.

Key Matchup: Backcourt vs. Backcourt. Bledsoe put up 30 in Phoenix's first matchup with the Nuggets.  Knight put up 38 (backed up by Bledsoe's 22) in the second.  Phoenix won both.  With Will Barton and Gary Harris having to carry the scoring burden in Gallinari's absence, those two will need to step up on both ends of the court if the Nuggets hope to snag their first win in three tries against the Suns.  The Suns don't do much outside of their guards on offense, but what they do has been Kryptonite for Denver.

What the Nuggets need to do:  Find a way to win a game. Yes, they are short-handed.  No, it's not especially fair that they have to start their 15th man because of the injury situation with Gallo and Chandler, nor that two of their brightest young hopes are riding the oak with injuries.  But they can't be throwing 16 point quarters out there, or falling on their face at home against 4-win teams.  They can't abdicate defense or make Will Barton put up 50 for them to win.  It's a team game, and Michael Malone is having trouble getting them to play as a team for the whole game.  Jeff Hornacek is having the same problem with the Suns, but one of these teams is going to staunch the bleeding tonight.  Denver needs to feed their bigs - especially Jokic, who notched 15 points and 10 boards against the Lakers on a night the Nuggets should have used him more.  They also have to protect the ball and play defense if they intend to come out the victor.

Prediction: Suns 104, Nuggets 96.  No team that loses to the Lakers gets the benefit of the doubt the next night.