The Denver Nuggets national TV tour continues tonight with the Phoenix Suns. The Western Conference Semifinals rematch will be the second game the two teams have played this season, with the Nuggets getting the better of the Suns in Phoenix at the beginning of December. For the Suns the season hasn’t gone exactly as planned. After making major roster moves over the past year to assemble a “Big Three” and put role players around them, many felt like Phoenix was the favorite to come out of the Western Conference if not win the whole thing. Instead the Suns find themselves locked in a fierce battle to avoid the play-in tournament. Bradley Beal hasn’t been able to stay healthy, the rebuilt bench had to be rebuilt again midseason, Kevin Durant is starting to look like age is catching up with him and Devin Booker just doesn’t have enough to carry the team on his own, especially after he hurt his ankle a few days ago (Booker will not play tonight). Any chance of getting homecourt for a series in the playoffs seems to be evaporating for the Suns and they are just 5-5 in their last 10 games. Suffice to say that the pressure is on in the valley.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (42-19) vs Phoenix Suns (35-26)

When: 8:00PM MST

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. TNT. NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5. Show up rocking a bunch of Michigan State gear and with at least one harassment charge and explain you are one of Matt Ishbia’s bros.

Rival blog: Bright Side of the Sun

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Suns Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Bradley Beal Nuggets
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Grayson Allen Nuggets
SF Michael Porter Jr. Royce O’Neal Nuggets
PF Aaron Gordon Kevin Durant Suns
C Nikola Jokic Jusuf Nurkic Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jacksonm, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Zeke Nnaji Eric Gordon, Drew Eubanks, Saben Lee, David Roddy, Bol Bol Even


Injury Report: Vlatko Cancar – out (knee); Jusuf Nurkic – questionable (calf), Devin Booker – out (ankle), Damion Lee – out (knee), Nassir Little – out (knee), Josh Okogie – out (abdominal)

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Jamal Murray vs Bradley Beal

Oct 10, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) against the Phoenix Suns during a preseason game at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns decision to forego a traditional point guard has not been the best for them. Unlike the Nuggets, who have Nikola Jokic to serve as a de facto point player anytime he is on the court, the Suns lack of playmaking and game control is fairly detrimental. Now with Booker sidelined the issue gets highlighted even more, thrusting Beal into the role. He’s certainly capable and often times filled that role for the Washington Wizards in the post John Wall era but the Wizards were also objectively terrible during that period. However, while it might not be the most effective strategy long term, it will put pressure on Jamal Murray on defense who is likewise bothered by an injured ankle. I anticipate the Nuggets to move Kentavious Caldwell-Pope onto Beal as much as possible but I also won’t be surprised to see the Suns hunt the Beal/Murray matchup to test just how good he really feels on that ankle.

The thing to remember: this is still a dangerous team

Things haven’t worked out for Phoenix, and they are pretty devastated by injuries, but that doesn’t mean the Nuggets can take it easy. Durant and Beal can still go for thirty on any given night, Nurkic is still going to take the matchup with Jokic personally and who knows, Grayson Allen may trip and fall into a 5-5 from three night or something like that. Since the All Star break the Nuggets have been all business but the business has been mostly stomping bad teams, stomping teams that matchup poorly with the Nuggets or in one case (Sacramento) stomping a team the Nuggets had something to prove against. This game feels a bit different. It’s a game they should win against a team the Nuggets haven’t struggled with much lately and with the circumstances of the specific game tilting it even more in Denver’s favor. It’s not quite a trap game but it’s close. Tonight will once again be a good test of where the Nuggets focus is at and if they can continue standing on business to keep their winning streak going.

The thing to bet: Bradley Beal over 1.5 threes (+105)

Beal averages 1.7 three point makes a game and that’s before we account for the fact that Booker is out. He was 3-5 last game when he stepped into the primary guard role and I don’t see any reason to think he’s going to slow down. At +105 the odds are way too good to pass this up, even if it’s betting an over on an opponent which I don’t like to do in general.