The Denver Nuggets were taken to the wood shed last night against the Houston Rockets. In a contest that was anything but, Denver trailed throughout and lost by twenty-six. Working in their favor is that they won’t have to dwell on the loss long as the Nuggets are back in action tonight against the Phoenix Suns. Denver got in early in the morning but most of their rotation didn’t play past the late third quarter so they should be fairly rested.

Also working in the Nuggets favor is the fact that the Suns are not nearly as good as the Rockets. Phoenix has won just eighteen games this season and they appear to be all in on the lose for Luka train. Phoenix has gone young with pretty much their entire roster and while that includes scoring dynamo Devin Booker, he may not be able to go tonight and the rest of the Suns squad is still very much in the early part of their development curve. They’ll likely use a combo of 20 year old big men in Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss for large chunks of the game with Tyson Chandler questionable and likely will start newest acquisition Elfrid Payton at point guard if Tyler Ulis can’t go. There really is no excuse for the Nuggets to lose this game.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (29-26) at Phoenix Suns (18-38)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix AZ

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio AM950

Rival blog: Bright Side of the Sun

Position Nuggets Suns Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Elfrid Payton Nuggets
SG Gary Harris Devin Booker Even
SF Will Barton T.J. Warren Even
PF Wilson Chandler Dragan Bender Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Marquese Chriss Nuggets
Bench Trey Lyles, Torrey Craig,
Devin Harris, Darrell Arthur
Tyler Ulis, Josh Jackson, Troy Daniels, Jared Dudley, Danuel House, Alex Len Nuggets

Injured players: Devin Harris – questionable (bad uber driver), Paul Millsap – out (wrist), Mason Plumlee – out (calf), Tyler Lydon – out (knee), Devin Booker – questionable (hip), Tyler Ulis – questionable (back), Tyson Chandler – questionable (neck), Brandon Knight – out (knee), Alan Williams – out (knee)

Key match up: Will Barton vs T.J. Warren

If Booker is a no go tonight then look for Warren to carry the scoring load for the Suns. He’s been having his best season of his career and is a capable scorer averaging nearly twenty points a game. On the Nuggets side, Barton should expect to be the starting small forward until Paul Millsap comes back which means he’s going to get a regular dose of facing talented scoring wings, including some of the best in the league. Barton has always been a great scorer off the bench, but he’s never been known for his defensive prowess and he’s also undersized for the small forward position. Warren provides a good test for him on both ends of the court.

Key thing to watch for: Devin Harris

There’s a good chance the newest Nugget will play tonight. Harris is probably going to take a few games to get comfortable, especially with Denver not running a typical style offense. He’s a great cutter though so as long as he gets open it won’t be hard for Nikola Jokic to find him. It’ll be interesting to see how coach Malone uses Harris in his rotation tonight. Part of the reason the Nuggets brought Devin on was to stabilize the second unit, but he also has a skill set that pairs very well with Nikola so there’s going to be some motivation to get those two guys on the court together.

Opening thought: can’t lose this game

The Nuggets got embarrassed last night which has been a common theme when playing the Rockets. The thing of it is, everybody knows Houston is a terrible matchup for them and everyone is willing to give them a pass for last night (everyone except for coach of course). The only way that works though is if the Nuggets come back and win tonight in Phoenix. Yes they are on the second game of a back to back and yes they are on the road. It doesn’t matter, this is the last team Denver plays this month that isn’t competing for a playoff spot and they have to get the win.