The Denver Nuggets were able to get a dominant win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night, getting a feel-good win while LeBron James watched from the bench in Staples Center, and will get a chance to continue their winning ways with a road game against the Phoenix Suns Monday night.
The Nuggets have won six games in a row, finishing a perfect five-game homestand before the game against the Lakers, and are looking as good as their record is as 2019 comes to a close. They’re healthy, their offense is clicking, their defense continues to be stiff, and there isn’t any drama that is capturing headlines nationally. The team is right in the sweet spot of being ignored by the national media while being in contention for homecourt throughout the playoffs.
The Phoenix Suns started the season winning seven of their first 11 games, causing people that still haven’t learned how to learn from history to proclaim that the Suns were going to be good this season. Since then, the Suns have gone 4-14, reclaiming their spot as a team destined for the lottery. DeAndre Ayton returned from a suspension for PEDs and immediately injured his ankle, and Ricky Rubio has been missing games due to an illness. The Suns have lost six games in a row, with their last win coming two weeks ago against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It’s great for Nuggets fans that we can expect the team to not just be competitive in most of the games they play, but to win most of those games, and tonight is another situation where if the Nuggets play an average game by their standards, they should be able to comfortably win. Their win profile has them containing Elie Okobo on the perimeter, limiting turnovers which create scoring opportunities for Kelly Oubre Jr., and getting Aron Baynes in foul trouble, sending him to the bench for the hobbled Frank Kaminsky. If their offense can hit open shots, especially their starting point guard, Jokic puts up a 17-12-11 line, and Monte Morris is able to get double-digit points and/or five assists, the Nuggets will win the game.
Who: Denver Nuggets (20-8) vs Phoenix Suns (11-18)
When: 7:00 PM ET
Where: Talking Stick Arena, Phoenix, Arizona
How to Watch: NBA League Pass, Altitude, Tickets as low as $18
Rival Blog: Bright Side of the Sun
Nuggets vs Suns
|PG||Jamal Murray||Elie Okobo||Nuggets|
|SG||Gary Harris||Devin Booker||Even|
|SF||Will Barton||Kelly Oubre Jr.||Nuggets|
|PF||Paul Millsap||Dario Saric||Nuggets|
|C||Nikola Jokic||Aron Baynes||Even|
|BENCH||Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr, Mason Plumlee||Cameron Johnson, Ty Jerome, Tyler Johnson, Frank Kaminsky, Mikal Bridges, Cheick Diallo||Nuggets|
Injuries: DeAndre Ayton (out - ankle, bad decisions), Ricky Rubio (doubtful - illness), Frank Kaminsky (probable - knee), Dario Saric (probable - various bumps and bruises)
Three Things to Watch
The Dominant God of Chunk. Nikola Jokic celebrated December 15 early this year, and has been on an absolute tear over the last eight games. He’s shooting 54/42/84 while averaging 21.3/9.8/8.4, has two triple-doubles, and the team is 6-2. The team is winning games easily, and with Jokic playing this well this effortlessly, they are going to be able to continue to win games easily. Whatever he’s doing as of late, keep doing it big fella. He should be able to dominate again against a team that lacks big man depth, and Baynes hasn’t been playing well as of late.
Perimeter shooting on point. There is a saying in construction that caulking is a carpenter’s best friend, because it covers up every mistake. An accidental cut? Fill it with caulk! Miss a connection when drilling? Fill it with caulk! For the Nuggets, their version of caulk is hot shooting on their 3-point attempts. They’re shooting 37 percent from distance on their win streak, and as long as they shoot that well, they’re going to be a difficult beat.
Don’t run out of gas. There is always, always, no matter how many minutes the starters play in the first game of a back-to-back, a chance that the starters run out of gas in the fourth quarter of that second game. Jokic only played 27 minutes, Millsap played 21 minutes, and I’m not concerned about the wing players playing over 30 minutes. Hopefully Murray, Harris, and Barton were able to get a good night sleep, and are rested and ready to be able to play a solid 30 minutes tonight.
Denver Nuggets 111 - Phoenix Suns 104.
P.S. - I’ll be arriving in Phoenix tonight to spend Christmas with my wife’s family, but my flight lands at 7:00 PM. If my Southwest pilot sees this, please, sir, just bump up the throttle a little bit so we can land 30 minutes early so I can at least try to talk them into taking me to the game before going back to their house. Go Nuggets!