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The upstart Phoenix Suns will be an important test for the Nuggets on Sunday

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Coming off two emotional matchups against championship contenders, will the Nuggets maintain a championship mentality?

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Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets Photo by Lizzy Barrett/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets are finally becoming the team many thought they could be. After two of their best performances of the season, Denver will head into the weekend facing multiple teams in the playoff picture. One of those games is against the upstart Phoenix Suns on Sunday evening.

The Suns are 7-7, but don’t let that pedestrian record fool you into thinking they’re an easy foe. Sporting a +4.0 Net Rating that compares favorably to Denver’s +4.4 mark, the Suns are one of the most surprising teams of the 2019-20 season. Devin Booker is averaging 24.9 points and 6.0 assists per game while leading the charge on a Suns offense that ranks highly on both sides of the ball.

This comes after Suns starting center Deandre Ayton was suspended 25 games for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy just one game into the season. In his place, Aron Baynes has played like an All-Star, filling in the gaps left behind by Ayton and helping the Suns transform into a quality defensive team. Baynes is averaging 14.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and shooting an absurd 44.2% from behind the three-point line on over four attempts per game.

The last time the Suns entered Pepsi Center was the first time playing without Ayton, and they performed admirably in his stead. A pedestrian shooting performance by the Nuggets aided by tough Suns defense forced Denver’s home opener into an overtime frame. The Nuggets eventually won the game 108-107, and it was competitive and exciting throughout, generating some strong highlights that gave fans plenty of reason to cheer.

From Jerami Grant’s exciting debut in Denver to Torrey Craig’s game-saving block on Booker, the Nuggets had many highlight reel plays the first time around. This game will feature the same cast of characters with a chance to be an even better show.

It can be difficult for players to get up for a game like this one after playing the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics earlier in the week, but the Nuggets are turning into a team that plays with passion, energy, and poise in these moments. In one of the longer home stands of the season, the Nuggets will be well rested, focused, and either riding high after a major win streak or itching to make up for a loss, depending on how Friday night’s game against the Celtics goes.

Even if the Nuggets don’t start the game strong, they generally finish well, sporting the third highest win percentage in the NBA among games that incur the NBA’s definition of “clutch” time. Time and time again, the Nuggets have come through in the clutch, with Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic leading the way in those situations. Against the Suns, Murray and Jokic could have easier matchups than normal if Ricky Rubio (maligned by a back injury) and Baynes (day-to-day with a hip injury) either sit out or are slowed by those maladies.

Whatever happens, these two teams have played a number of competitive games the last couple of seasons, and the Nuggets will need their fans to pack Pepsi Center and be a difference maker in this one. After two tough matchups, the potential for a letdown is relatively high. If Nuggets fans bring the energy, Nuggets players will respond in kind.

Phoenix and Denver. tip off at 6:00 p.m. MDT at Pepsi Center, and the game will be televised locally on Altitude TV. If you’d like to buy tickets to the game against the Suns, you can do so from StubHub here.


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