The Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns came into tonight reeling on both sides. Each team was desperate for a win. The Nuggets relied on their veterans, particularly Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler and through them they were able to dominate throughout the game. The Suns tried to make a game of it in the fourth quarter but the vets strong play was able to overcome the last gasp effort from Phoenix. In the end the Nuggets go wire to wire and finally get that elusive home victory 120-104.
The game opened with back to back hustle plays and baskets for Faried who in general came out of the gate with some very solid play for the second game in a row. Faried’s hustle along with some solid defensive play gave the Nuggets an early advantage. After the fast start though each team got very sloppy as the Suns and Nuggets took turns turning the ball over and missing shots. In fact, near the mid-way point of the first quarter both teams were shooting below 40% from the field. Luckily for the Nuggets they were able to get Phoenix into foul trouble early and were in the bonus prior to the five minute mark, meanwhile the Suns remained ICE COLD from the floor. Denver’s bench, particularly Chandler, was able to get the offense going for a little bit but the shooting woes on both sides continued. Nonetheless the Nuggets had built an eleven point lead by the end of the first quarter.
The Suns opened with an ultra small lineup to start the second, featuring Dragan Bender at center (he airballed his first attempt). The Nuggets smartly responded to this by feeding Nikola Jokic in the post which resulted in eight points in three possessions. Phoenix responded quickly by bringing back Tyson Chandler. Wilson Chandler continued his strong play off the bench which helped counteract a more cohesive Phoenix unit as the teams traded baskets through the mid-part of the second quarter. Gallinari also was contributing as he and Chandler carried the Nuggets offensively. When Faried checked back in he kept up his energy play and a combo of starters and bench players helped expand the Nuggets lead to sixteen points with just under three minutes to go in the half. Chandler, Gallo and Faried continued to carry the team with Ill Will reaching eighteen points at the end of the half and Faried already earning a double double on the way to an eighteen point Nugget lead at the end of the second quarter.
The second half opened much like the first with both the Nuggets and Suns turning the ball over multiple times and missing shots all over the floor. Gallo upped his aggression to get the Nuggets some points while Devin Booker continued to be the only source of offense from the Suns starting unit. The Suns started to make a small run around the half way point of the quarter by getting to the free throw line and they reduced the Nuggets lead to close to single digits. Some more solid scoring off the bench from Chandler and Emmanuel Mudiay converting some open shots helped keep Phoenix at bay. Chandler in particular was giving Phoenix everything they could handle but some solid scoring from Booker and Brandon Knight kept the Nuggets from expanding their lead and they carried a thirteen point lead into the fourth quarter.
Knight continued his good scoring night into the fourth quarter and it was starting to look like the Nuggets were in danger of giving up a lead they had held for the entire game. The Nuggets started to get sloppy with their play and were committing too many fouls which helped Phoenix finally get Denver’s lead under double digits with around seven minutes to go. The Suns kept the pressure on as the fourth quarter passed the midway point, slowly chipping away. Mudiay would hit a layup, the Suns would respond with a three. Denver would play solid D, but give up a putback on the offensive glass or commit a silly foul. A sequence where Faried dove for a loos ball to trigger a Mudiay fast break and one and then followed with Faried drawing a charge seemed to be the moment that took the wind out of Phoenix’s sails. They started committing silly fouls and got into the penalty with just over four minutes to go. The Nuggets were able to push their lead back above ten and ultimately would get the win.
Best match up: Wilson Chandler vs Brandon Knight
These two didn’t neccessarily match up against one another throughout the night (though they did get switched on each other often) but each was huge off the bench for his team. Chandler teamed with Gallo early on to give the Nuggets the scoring punch they needed while Knight carried the Suns through the first half and then helped Booker claw the Suns way back into the game in the second half. Had it not been for the stellar play of Chandler the Suns likely would have pulled off the comeback, but his consistent scoring effort throughout the game was enough to get Denver the W.
Main thing I noticed: Faried’s insertion into the starting lineup has helped the Nuggets
It’s no coincidence that Denver’s hot starts recently coincide with Faried returning to the starting lineup. The manimal just brings a different level of energy than anyone else on the court and when he’s bringing it right out of the gate it catches the other team off guard, particularly on the offensive glass. Tonight that translated into a strong performance for Faried all night long. I’d still prefer a starting front court of Faried and Jokic to Faried and Nurkic but ultimately the switch away from the Jurkic lineup to a more traditional big man pairing has been a benefit to the Nuggets. Here’s hoping Faried can keep up his strong play early in the games.
Closing thought: the vets carried the team tonight
The Nuggets got huge contributions from Gallo, Chandler and Faried tonight as those three powered the team to a win. Wilson flat out couldn’t be guarded, Faried beasted on the glass for putbacks all night and Gallo was his usual self, shooting over smaller defenders and taking slower defenders into the lane for easy points or fouls. With a four game losing streak and zero wins at home this season Denver needed this win and it was good to see their most experienced players lift the team up on their collective shoulders and deliver a victory. Even Jameer Nelson had a good night for the team. All in all, just what the Nuggets needed from their most talented players.