With Nikola Jokic out for a second straight game many Nuggets fans wrote this game off, they were right. The Nuggets defense left a lot to be desired thus losing this game 126-97. The Nuggets were down by more than 25 points at one point and it was pretty clear they were going to lose this game after the first quarter. The Nuggets have dropped 4 games in a row and are now in 6th place in the Western Conference.
The Suns jumped out to an early lead led by a strong start from Jae Crowder and DeAndre Ayton. The Nuggets just had no answer for Ayton in the paint. Aaron Gordon tried his best to keep the Nuggets in the game with 9 first-quarter points. There’s just only so much he can do when the Suns shot 77% from the field and 87% (7-8) from 3 in the first quarter. The Nuggets defense was abysmal in the first, they gave up 48 points in the first quarter. That’s the second-most points scored in the first quarter in Suns history (the first most was also against the Nuggets). It was obvious the Nuggets needed a big inside presence tonight, there was no defensive anchor. 48-28 Suns after one.
Bones Hyland went to the locker room after just entering the game in the first quarter, he appeared to hurt his ankle. Mike Singer reports that the X-rays were negative.
One of the few bright spots from the first half was Aaron Gordon, he was attacking the basket well and had a great pass to JaMychal Green. He had 16 points at the half. The Suns weren’t able to keep up their first-quarter performance as their shooting average dropped to 60% in the first half, they only made 1 three pointer in the second as well. The Suns had a clear plan on every possession with Chris Paul having 9 assists at the half. The Nuggets were able to bring it to a 13 point game at halftime but the game was still very much out of reach. 73-60 in favor of the Suns at the half.
The Nuggets looked far more engaged on the defensive end after halftime, I’m sure Coach Malone had some choice words for the team in the locker room. The Nuggets were able to bring it to a 9 point game after back-to-back 3’s from Monte Morris and JaMychal Green during the 3rd quarter. Will Barton appeared to land awkwardly after a foul and was favoring his quad/groin area, he got up and waved off the trainers to stay in the game. But as soon as Denver went on a run Coach Monty Williams called timeout and the Suns immediately brought the lead to 15 again. Aaron Gordon was ejected after earning 2 technical fouls over an offensive foul on Cam Payne late in the 3rd. Any hope of Denver pulling a comeback off was gone. 100-78 Suns after the third.
The Suns end the 3rd and begin the 4th on a 12-0 run. Mikal Bridges, DeAndre Ayton, and JaMychal Green were the only starters for either team to play in the 4th quarter. This game evolved into garbage time very quickly after the initial run from the Suns.
The defense is bad without Jokic:
The Suns were able to get in the paint whenever they wanted. The Nuggets just didn’t have anyone big enough to control the paint or defend DeAndre Ayton. Jokic is the anchor of the Nuggets defense so without him the whole scheme falls apart.
Will Barton and Aaron Gordon can’t do it all:
While the Nuggets have been without a few key pieces to start the season off Will Barton and AG have stepped up in their absences. That wasn’t the case tonight. Will Barton finished with 10 points shooting 4/15 and 0/4 from 3. AG was ejected with 16 points and 11 boards while shooting 7/14 and 1/1 from 3. You can’t really expect much more from AG and Will can’t keep producing at the rate he’s been all season every night.
The Nuggets need a backup center:
The Nuggets have needed a rebounding rim-protecting backup center for a while now. This game only emphasized the need for one. The Nuggets did not record a block in this game, the Suns could drive into the paint all they wanted.
The Nuggets will look to put this one behind them and are off to Portland to play the Blazers on Tuesday the 23rd. Let’s all just hope that Jokic is back for that one or else the Nuggets could be in 8th place if the Lakers win and the Nuggets lose.