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Nuggets host first of a home-and-home with the Phoenix Suns

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The Suns are at the bottom of the Western Conference but are still only 4.5 games behind Denver

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Following a solid victory over Utah on Tuesday night, the Denver Nuggets are cruising as winners of five of their last seven games. With a light upcoming schedule this run could very well extend itself further, starting tonight in the first of a home-and-home with the Phoenix Suns.

While Denver is trending up as sole possessors of the eighth playoff seed, Phoenix has mired itself into second-to-last place in the Western Conference and most recently fell victim to an Andrew Wiggins buzzer beater in a loss to Minnesota. Still, there is much hope for the future in Phoenix as Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss were both selected to the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend. As members of the U.S. team roster, they will face off against Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray of the world team a few weeks from now.

But first, these teams will see each other twice in three days. Denver currently leads the season series 2-0 after winning both contests in November. The Nuggets offense has been humming nicely, and their typically porous defense has actually improved a bit during this seven-game stretch. If Denver keeps playing up to its potential, this should be an easy matchup.

The Basics

Who: Phoenix Suns (15-30) at Denver Nuggets (19-25)

When: 7:00 PM MT

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO

How to watch: Altitude

Rival blog: Bright Side of the Sun

Position Nuggets Suns Advantage
PG Jameer Nelson Eric Bledsoe Suns
SG Gary Harris Devin Booker Even
SF Danilo Gallinari T.J. Warren Nuggets
PF Kenneth Faried Marquese Chriss Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Tyson Chandler Nuggets
Bench Jamal Murray, Wilson Chandler, Darrell Arthur, Will Barton, Jusuf Nurkic Brandon Knight, P.J. Tucker, Alex Len, Tyler Ulis, Leandro Barbosa Nuggets

Injury Report: Emmanuel Mudiay - doubtful (back); Jared Dudley - TBD (flu)

Key Matchup: Gary Harris vs. Devin Booker

Garris will have the responsibility of guarding the Suns’ most dangerous scoring threat in the sophomore Booker. Though he’s streaky, Booker has been on an absolute tear lately and has scored 20+ points in each of the last ten games, including two outings of 39 points earlier in January. In his five career games against Denver he averages 19.0 ppg and put up 24 and 30 points respectively in the two meetings earlier this season. However, Harris did not play in either of those games.

Thing to watch: Jamal Murray at point

With Emmanuel Mudiay doubtful, and given the indications by Coach Malone that he will indeed keep getting more time, expect to see some Jamal Murray action again as the backup point guard. He hasn’t put up amazing stats by any means in the past few games without Mudiay, but he has shown he’s capable of running the show. Are we looking at the Nuggets point guard of the future? Who knows, but if he keeps making plays like this, watch out:

Opening thought: Home court advantage?

It looks like there might possibly, just maybe, be some magic coming back to Pepsi Center. The Nuggets have won three straight games at home (four if you include London), and have evened up their season record at the Can to 11-11. Per Christopher Dempsey, a win tonight would give Denver a winning home record for the first time since 3-2 to start the 2015-16 season. Also per Dempsey, in the month of January the Nuggets are averaging 117.2 points, 30.3 assists and are shooting 52% collectively. And this is all in front of hardly any fans! Imagine how good they’d be in front of a packed house on a regular basis.