Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE
Will the Suns be able to close out the preseason with a winning record of 4-3? Tonight's pre-season grand finale against the young and talented Denver Nuggets will not only determine their exhibition record, it will also be their last game to get all the kinks worked out before the regular season home-opener on Oct. 31.
WHEN: Tonight, Oct. 26, 7:30 PST
WHERE: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
WATCH: Live on ESPN2
Tonight, the Phoenix Suns will play their preseason finale against the Denver Nuggets at home, which will also be broadcast nationally on ESPN2. This game will mark the final preseason game for both teams before the start of the new season, so this will be the last chance for the coaching staff to fine tune their line-ups and get their teams ready to play for when it actually counts.
Now that the rosters are set, at least for the time being, you can expect to see more minutes for the starters on both teams tonight, as well as plenty of minutes for the rotation guys as well.
Here's what to look for:
Goran Dragic vs. Ty Lawson - Ty Lawson is an explosive, fast and strong point guard who can both attack the basket and find the open shooter. Goran Dragic has many of the same traits, but is about 4-5 inches taller than Lawson, which should be to his advantage.
Jared Dudley vs. Andre Iguodala - Iguodala was a huge addition to the Nuggets this off-season, and should be a major factor for the Suns to contend with tonight. Jared Dudley has shown the ability to be a solid starting two-guard in the NBA, but he will have trouble staying in front of the strong and athletic Iguodala tonight. I expect Denver to exploit this match-up often.
Michael Beasley vs. Danilo Gallinari - This is one match-up that could go either way. Gallinari has shown he can be an extremely effective scorer, and is a more consistent player than Beasley. However, if the Suns get the same Michael Beasley tonight who played in the first five preseason games, he could make life very difficult for the Nuggets.
Luis Scola vs. Kenneth Faried - Scola will face the Manimal tonight in the post, and it will take everything Scola has to keep him off the glass and away from the basket. The advantages Scola has over Faried is his craftiness and more well-rounded game ... he will have to pull all of the tricks out of his hat tonight to battle Faried, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Morris match up against him at times as well.
Marcin Gortat vs. JaVale McGee - Gortat is coming off his most impressive game of the preseason against Golden State in which he scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. JaVale McGee has had a fairly productive preseason overall and also possesses the true center size and length that has bothered Gortat in the past. This is another match-up that could go either way.
Keys to the Game:
- Defense - Will the Suns be able to solidify their defense against a very young and aggressive Nuggets team? The Suns were unable to stop Golden State this past Wednesday, and have struggled getting defensive stops all preseason long. Now that the roster and rotation is mostly set, will the Suns prove they can play effectively on both ends of the court?
- Rebounding - Like Defense, the Suns have been unable to control the glass in the preseason thus far. This will be their toughest test to date with players like Faried, Iguodala and McGee to contend with, and the Suns will have to work together as a team to make sure they box out and secure the ball.
- The Bench - The Suns' starting five has been a pleasant surprise throughout most of the preseason, executing plays with high efficiency and working together as a unit. However, the Suns have been struggling to find their go-to guy in the second unit with Wesley Johnson and Shannon Brown's streaky jump shooting and Morris's issues with consistently finishing. The Suns will need to find that spark off the bench tonight.
The Suns will need their A-game tonight to close out the preseason with a winning record, but the chips are stacked in their favor. The Nuggets are coming off of a late game loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last night, and the fully rested Suns should have plenty of energy plus the advantage of the home crowd to cheer them on.
** Editor's Note **
Suns reserve small forward P.J. Tucker had Lasik surgery on Wednesday and will be sitting out this game while his eyes recover. That means Wesley Johnson will get all the back-up minutes at the three tonight, and Beasley could play full starter's minutes. When asked via Twitter if he'd be ready to go on opening night, Tucker responded "No doubt."
** Editor's Note 2 **
Per Paul Coro, Gentry also said Jermaine O'Neal is banged up an will be sitting out tonight. Coro said it will give the Suns a chance to see Morris at the five.