The Denver Nuggets (20-11) are back in action tonight against the Phoenix Suns (19-14) in a matchup between two top four teams in the Western Conference. To those who celebrate, Merry Christmas to you. This will be the first matchup between these two teams this season, and they are facing off at a great time. Michael Porter Jr. returned form injury on Friday, and star guard Devin Booker will be making his return for Phoenix as well.

The Nuggets are 6-4 over their last 10 games, and they are a bit of a hot streak right now with three straight wins, with the last two in that stretch coming against team currently in the playoffs. For the Suns, they’ll be looking to snap themselves out of this mini slump as they’ve gone 3-7 over their last 10 games including a two-game losing streak to the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (20-11, 11-3 home) vs Phoenix Suns (19-14, 5-9 away)

When: 8:30 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: ABC & ESPN. Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. Show up in Denver. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Bright Side of the Sun

Expected Starting Lineups:

PHX: PG Chris Paul, SG Devin Booker, SF Mikal Bridges, PF Torrey Craig, C Deandre Ayton

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Collin Gillespie (leg), Jeff Green (finger/hand), Cameron Payne (foot), Cameron Johnson (knee), Devin Booker (groin)

Three Things to Watch

Keep the Ball Moving

When the Nuggets are passing the basketball, they are a better team. There isn’t much analysis there, and I’m not doing a ton of critical thinking. However, it is a true enough fact. In 22 games where the team had 27 or more assists, they are 18-4. That’s a pretty darn good track record if you ask me. In their win over the Portland TrailBlazers on Friday night, they had 31 assists. Getting the ball moving makes everyone on the floor a threat and keeps the defense off balance. 

Keep the Lid on Booker

The last time these two teams met, the Nuggets gave up 49 points to Booker when he shot 16-of-25 from the floor while also racking up 10 assists. The Nuggets made a point this offseason to add more defenders that they can throw at these elite guards that the NBA has to offer, and they have to show out in this one. Booker’s offensive acumen opens the floor up for the rest of his teammates. Slowing him down will slow down everyone else. 

Roll with Aaron Gordon

The Nuggets have unlocked Aaron Gordon this season. He’s a terrifying presence for other teams to deal with because of his size and speed, and the Suns are about to be in a predicament with him. Torrey Craig will be tasked with slowing Gordon down, and that’s a matchup that favors Gordon. If Denver gets him rolling early in the game, the shooting space for the guys around the perimeter will open up a lot. It could also pull Deandre Ayton closer to the rim and away from Nikola Jokic, and that’s always bad news for the defense when Jokic has space to work.

The Nuggets will tip off against the Suns at 8:30PM MST tonight on ESPN. All nationally televised NBA games can be watched on Sling TV.