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Preview: Nuggets host Suns for 2019-20 season home opener

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NBA: Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

You know what’s better than starting the season with a win — two wins!

The Nuggets look to keep their winning ways going as they prepare for their 2019-20 home opener, with a 7:00 PM tip-off against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. The Nuggets finished the preseason without any losses, and defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in their first game of the season on Wednesday night, which means their last loss was Game 7 at the Pepsi Center in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The Suns, fresh off another year as the basement dweller of the Pacific Division, are coming off a win against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. They really upgraded their roster in the offseason, bringing in two capable point guards in Ricky Rubio and Jevon Carter. They acquired two European bigs, Dario Saric and Aron Baynes, giving them two experienced players to get rotation minutes. They brought back Kelly Oubre Jr. after trading for the former Wizards wing last season, and cleared a starter role for him by moving TJ Warren to the Indiana Pacers. This isn’t the same old Suns — this team can play.

They still have a ways to go to get on the same level as the Nuggets, but if Denver doesn’t take care of business, they could be in for a really stressful ending in front of 20,000 fans who are expecting a win.

The Basics

Who: Phoenix Suns (1-0, 0-0 away) vs Denver Nuggets (1-0, 0-0 home)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

How to watch: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy; KDVR to air Nuggets game. Altitude agreement with cable providers still in negotiations. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up at Pepsi Center.

Rival Blog: Bright Side of the Sun

Projected Lineups

POS PHO DEN EDGE
PG
Ricky Rubio
Jamal Murray
Nuggets
SG
Devin Booker
Gary Harris
Suns
SF
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Will Barton
Suns
PF
Dario Saric
Paul Millsap
Nuggets
C
DeAndre Ayton
Nikola Jokic
Nuggets
Bench
Jevon Carter, Tyler Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Frank Kaminsky, Aron Baynes
Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee
Nuggets

Injury tracker: Suns - Ty Jerome (out), Cameron Johnson (probable); Nuggets - Bol Bol (out).

Three Things to Watch For

Don’t lose focus. This is a team that has a competent point guard for the first time in what seems like years. Rubio isn’t someone you’re writing home to tell Ma about at the point guard position, but he’s a capable veteran who has been running professional offenses since he was a teenager (Minnesota took him and Jonny Flynn over Steph Curry #neverforget). He’s going to be able to take advantage of moments when the Nuggets defenders lose focus, using his speed and experience to set up his teammates for easy baskets. Kelly Oubre Jr. is a lethal slasher to the rim, DeAndre Ayton is a very physically gifted player, and Dario Saric has a knack to get open against dozing defenders. If they lose focus on defense, they’ll give up some easy baskets.

The Nuggets really struggled with turnovers in the preseason and again in the regular season in their game against the Trail Blazers. They can’t be giving the ball away, not when they have so many players that can get the ball in the hoop. If they finish with 16 turnovers or less, they’ll have a really good chance to win the game.

Watch that whistle. The referees have made it a point of emphasis this season to correctly call offensive fouls. That means more players are going to get whistled for shoving their defenders or using their elbows illegally. It may also mean that your All-Star center picks up three fouls in four minutes in the first game of the season on a national broadcast. Let’s not have that happen again.

Play big. The Trail Blazers outperformed the Nuggets on the glass in Game One, with Hassan Whiteside finishing with 19 rebounds. The Nuggets need to do a better job of collectively attacking the defensive glass, and securing missed shots. That allows them to get into transition, and on a team where they frequently have four highly skilled offensive players on the court at a time, that leads to easy buckets off of mismatches. The Nuggets defense is good, they don’t need to give the Suns any extra chances to score on them.

Know thy enemy

Here’s the highlights from the Suns-Kings game on Wednesday.

UPDATE

DeAndre Ayton has been suspended for 25 games for a positive test for a diuretic. More like PEEDs, amirite?? What an idiot.