The Denver Nuggets are back to their winning ways. They’ve got Jamal Murray back and have won three straight. Unfortunately, Jamal tweaked his ankle on his first game back and is questionable for today. He’ll be a game time decision for the Nuggets matchup tonight against the Phoenix Suns. There’s been some injury issues on Phoenix’s side as well. Key offseason acquisition Bradley Beal has barely played while stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker have dealt with their own ailments (Booker is questionable tonight). In theory Phoenix has one of the best rosters in the league but it’s been difficult to tell if this collection of scorers works well together because they have yet to play a regular season game where all three stars are on the court. Interestingly, it hasn’t slowed down Phoenix much. Durant returned to their lineup on Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors after missing a couple games and that was actually Phoenix’s first loss after winning seven straight. Despite not having their full arsenal, Phoenix still presents as big of a challenge as any for the Nuggets.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (13-6) at Phoenix Suns (11-7)

When: 8:00 PM MST

Where: The Shoeless Arena. Phoenix, AZ.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. Altitude TV where available (Altitude TV is available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream & Fubo TV). ESPN. NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5FM. Show up with a bunch of grainy photos of a tall person walking in the distance, claim its the Mogollon Monster (sources: trust me bro) and trade them for courtside seats.

Rival blog: Bright Side of the Sun

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Suns Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Devin Booker Even
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Eric Gordon Even
SF Michael Porter Jr. Grayson Allen Nuggets
PF Aaron Gordon Kevin Durant Suns
C Nikola Jokic Jusuf Nurkic Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Justin Holiday, Zeke Nnaji, DeAndre Jordan Drew Eubanks, Keita Bates-Diop, Yuta Watanabe, Nassir Little, Josh Okogie Even

Injury Report: Peyton Watson – probable (illness), Jamal Murray – questionable (ankle), Aaron Gordon – questionable (heel), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Jay Huff – out (G-League), Jalen Pickett – out (G-League), Hunter Tyson – out (G-League); Devin Booker- questionable (ankle), Bradley Beal – out (back), Damion Lee – out (knee)

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Will Murray and Gordon be able to go?

Jun 4, 2023; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) and guard Jamal Murray (27) react in the second quarter against the Miami Heat in game two of the 2023 NBA Finals at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Murray looked pretty bothered by his ankle after he tweaked it to begin the last game. He is tough as nails and stayed in but now that his ankle had time to get cold, maybe swell up a bit, it might not be so easy to be able to go close to 100%. Gordon meanwhile has missed a couple games with a heel injury. The Nuggets absolutely would love to have him back to match up against Durant tonight. If those guys can’t go then the weight falls on Nikola Jokic like it always does but also on Michael Porter Jr. who will be not only the second scoring option but also will likely be the one drawing Durant as a a matchup. MPJ will have to work extra hard on both ends of the court if Denver is shorthanded. I’d much rather the Nuggets be able to throw Gordon at Durant while MPJ gets guarded by 6’4″ Josh Okogie.

The thing to remember: this is KD and Book’s first shot at revenge

Yes, the Nuggets and Suns played a preseason game this year but those don’t count. Tonight is the first time the Suns will play the Nuggets in a game that matters since Denver eliminated them from the postseason last year. While Phoenix didn’t go all LeBron James and Anthony Davis and talk trash all summer while falsely claiming the Nuggets were the ones talking trash, there’s no doubt KD and Booker have this one circled on their calendars. Matt Ishbia has probably been burning holes in pictures of Nikola Jokic with Mel Tucker’s cigarette butts while Mel sleeps on the couch. Jusuf Nurkic will never get over the fact that Jokic is better than him. Even if Booker doesn’t play, the Nuggets should be prepared to get the very best from the team that is probably the closest thing the Nuggets have to an actual rival right now.

The thing to bet: Jokic over 9.5 assists (+105)

Joker hadn’t topped double digit assists for a couple games and then he got Murray back and immediately dropped 15 dimes in a single outing. This bet will certainly be boosted if Jamal (and AG) play but even if they don’t I like it. Plus money on Joker getting double digit assists? I’m taking that every night and I’m laughing all the way to the bank.