The Denver Nuggets still have a bad taste in their mouths from their last game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Fortunately, they have a chance to get it out when they face the Phoenix Suns this afternoon. The Nuggets have already played the Suns this season, beating them 120-104 on November 16th. In that game, Brandon Knight was huge off the bench with 32 points and Devin Booker added 24. Kenneth Faried had a monster double-double though with 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Wilson Chandler was great off the bench (no surprise, there) with 28 points of his own. As fans may remember, Booker showed his temper that night and was ejected with 17 seconds left after getting his second technical.
The Suns have not been having a good season so far, losing their first four games and only going 5-8 after that. In their defense, their schedule has not been easy as they have already played the Golden State Warriors twice and the Los Angeles Clippers once (all losses) and have played 11 of their 17 games on the road (including a six-game road trip). Devin Booker is their leading scorer with 18.8 a game and Eric Bledsoe is close behind, averaging 18.3 a game. They're a young team with a lot of potential with that youth (sound familiar?) They average 105.6 points a game and with the scorers they have in the backcourt, it's not too hard to see one or two of them going off today. Still, this is a winnable game for the Nuggets as long as they buckle down somewhat defensively and continue to show improvement on the offensive end. Murray and Chandler have looked fantastic for Denver lately and everything seems to be clicking a little bit more for the whole team. Let's see if this continues today.
Key Matchup: Nuggets starting backcourt vs. Suns starting backcourt
During the first matchup between these two teams, the Suns' guards were the highlight for the losing team with Knight and Booker scoring a combined 56 points. Since Warren went out with a head injury a week ago, the Suns have been going with a three-guard lineup. Knight, Bledsoe and Booker will be deadly from an offensive standpoint and the Nuggets will definitely have their hands full trying to contain them. Before the recent revival of Jamal Murray, the Nuggets' backcourt has oftentimes been dominated. However, with Mudiay playing more consistently and Murray lighting it up, the Nuggets should be able to hold their own in this matchup. Without Harris to defend any of these three guards, however, it will be important that Nelson, Mudiay and Murray have a good showing on the defensive end today. A good showing from these three will be huge in this one.
Thing to Watch: Battle of the Turnovers
The Nuggets and Suns are two of the league's leaders in turnovers this season, averaging 16.2 and 16.4 respectively. Prior to Friday's game against the Thunder in which they had 17 turnovers, the Nuggets had been doing a much better job in this department in their three previous games. Turnovers have killed the Nuggets this season and have been perhaps their biggest weakness so far. It'd be nice to see the team hold themselves to 10 or fewer turnovers today and force at least 16 on the Suns. The three guards previously mentioned lead the Suns in turnovers with a combined 7.9, so if Mudiay and the rest of the team can continue to show improvement in this category the Nuggets should have a better chance at winning this game.
Spotlight on: Jamal Murray
Murray has been tremendous lately for the Nuggets, showing that he can do a little bit of everything. This was never more evident than during Friday night's game against the Thunder, as he showed a major clutch gene when he sunk three free throws to send the game to overtime. He's been lighting it up from downtown, driving to the basket and finishing with ease, and limiting his turnovers. It's official: The Nuggets have an all-star in the making. Fans should be excited every opportunity they get to see this rookie play, and Michael Malone seems to be trusting him more and more with each game that passes. Seeing him on the court during the duration of overtime on Friday proves that. Let's hope this is a sign that Muray is going to continue seeing increased minutes. If he does, watch out.