The Denver Nuggets let a chance for a winning December slip through their fingers in their last game of the calendar year and finished 7-8, but still have a winning record at this point for the first time in four years. Looking to start the New Year off right, they host the Phoenix Suns. The Suns are 15-24 but 6-4 over their last 10. Devin Booker is making a push for All-Star consideration, averaging 25 points per game on 19 shots.

The Suns make a living off of having a puncher’s chance. They have taken the most field goals in the league and when they make their shots (or get to the line enough to make those free throws) they are dangerous. It’s Denver’s job to curtail Phoenix’s offensive ambitions and step on a lesser team at home. That’s what good teams do – and it’s time for Denver to make a New Year’s resolution to be that good team.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (19-17) vs Phoenix Suns (15-24)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude radio AM 950

Rival blog: Bright Side of the Sun

Injury Report

Paul Millsap – out (wrist), Davon Reed – out (knee), Brandon Knight (out for season), Alan Williams – out (knee), Danuel House – questionable (foot), Jared Dudley – questionable (illness)

Update: Will Barton is questionable with illness.

Three Things to Watch

Can Denver make Phoenix a two-headed beast? Devin Booker scores 25 a night, and T.J. Warren adds almost 20. Greg Monroe is next with just over 11. If Denver can avoid allowing one of Phoenix’s unheralded players to have a great night it will be hard for the Suns to keep up. If they can limit either Booker or Warren the odds go up dramatically from there. Limiting Booker hasn’t really worked for Denver historically, so maybe Wilson Chandler and Torrey Craig (!!!) can hold Warren down. 

Can Denver’s guards keep up their scoring pace? Gary Harris and Jamal Murray combined for 37 points per game in December. Devin Booker is averaging 31 points since coming back from a leg injury. If Denver’s guards can match Phoenix’s it’ll make the rest of the game so much easier.

Can Denver defend without fouling? The Suns can’t shoot. They’re 29th in three-point percentage and 25th in two-point percentage. But they can rebound, and they can make foul shots, being first in the league on both categories. The Suns throw the ball up at the glass and crash hard. If Denver can box out without fouling and defend the shot without giving up trips to the free throw line, they should have this game in the bag.

Prediction: Denver gets it done. If they hadn’t lost to the Philadelphia 76ers to end the month I could see this being a trap game, but not now. Now they’ll want to start the new year on the right foot at home and wash the taste of last game out of their mouths. Denver 113, Phoenix 101.