The Denver Nuggets have lost their first two preseason games, which is no reason to panic, but a win against the Suns could be a nice confidence boost heading toward the regular season. After giving up 131 points against the Bulls, the Nuggets look to bounce back with a better defensive effort tonight. The signings of KCP and Bruce Brown gave fans confidence that the defense would improve, but as a team, it surely did not show in Chicago.
Michael Malone noted, “We’ve played harder in practice than we’ve played in the games.” That idea is understandable because the purpose of the preseason is to act as a warm-up to the regular season, and given Denver’s recent injury history, they want to play this preseason as safe as possible. Still, it would be nice to reveal some of the potential fans have been waiting for against a well-coached Suns unit.
Who: Denver Nuggets vs Phoenix Suns
When: 7:00 PM MST
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
How to Watch/Listen: Altitude, Altitude Sports Radio 92.5FM
Rival Blog: Bright Side of the Sun
Projected Starting Lineups:
Suns — Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Deandre Ayton
Nuggets — Bones Hyland, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Zeke Nnaji
Three Things to Watch
Clearly, this is Denver’s weak spot, and it won't be answered in the preseason, but the coaching staff and the fans are looking for signs of improvement. The defensive intensity does not need to mirror that of a playoff game, but crisp rotations and avoiding one-on-one blow by’s would be a very positive sign. Even though it is the preseason, the Suns will still provide great competition. They are very well-coached under Monty Williams, and even if some of their starters do not play, their reserves are knowledgeable and talented. Look for Denver to try to keep the opponent under 110 points tonight.
The Nuggets have turned it over 17+ times in both preseason outings. That was another area in which the team underperformed last year, so look for them to place more of a premium on ball security tonight. As far as the regular season is concerned, this Nuggets defense will most likely not be a top defense in the league. Since they might have to frequently outscore opponents, they cannot be a team that gives the ball up with regularity. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic will not play tonight, so much of that responsibility will be placed on the shoulders of the reserves.
With the new additions of KCP and Bruce Brown, there will be areas of their game they will need to acclimate towards the team's needs. They both are team players so I have no doubt that will be a problem, but tonight would be another great opportunity to show how and where they will be effective for this unit. They have shown signs of a positive impact already, but without Murray and Jokic tonight, they should have much larger roles tonight. As a team, expect the Nuggets to have some high assist numbers tonight in order to show that team chemistry. They had 29 assists against Chicago, so look for them to build on those numbers against Phoenix.