Phoenix Suns finish preseason on mile high note: Beat Nuggets 98-79

That fourth quarter did sting, didn't it? - Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

The Suns played three quarters of sloppy, sluggish preseason basketball and 12 minutes of midseason masterpiece. A 38-14 fourth quarter allowed them to easily dispatch the Nuggets and finish the preseason with a record of 5-2 under new head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Recap:

The Suns started off another slopfest with eight first quarter turnovers.  Ty Lawson and Javale McGee each scored five points in the early going to help Denver build a 12-7 lead which they nursed for the remainder of a fairly uninspired quarter of preseason basketball.  Goran Dragic looked discombobulated on his way to four first quarter turnovers, which is disconcerting considering ball control has plagued him all preseason.  Nuggets 24, Suns 18.

After racing out to 12 turnovers in the second quarter while they were still stuck on 18 points, the Suns were more precautious the rest of the way... though not necessarily better.   Denver threatened to gain separation and pushed their lead to nine twice, but Phoenix (aided by Denver's offensive ineptitude) kept within striking distance.  Eric Bledsoe led the charge with nine points in the period.  Nuggets 44, Suns 39.

Halftime Stats/Notables

The Nuggets shot 21 free throws in the first half to the Suns nine.

The previous game against the Thunder the Suns managed to win shooting below 40/25/65 (FG%/3P%/FT%). The first half of this game they were a paltry 37/18/56.

Bledsoe finished with nine points, five rebounds and three assists

The Suns finished the first half with 14 turnovers.

The Nuggets shooting was even more atrocious than Phoenix's, as they hit just 29.5% (13-44) from the field.

McGee led the Nuggets with nine points and Lawson chipped in eight.

Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris each pulled down seven rebounds.

Markieff asserted himself early in the third quarter by scoring eight straight points for the Suns as they clawed to stay close, twice cutting the Nuggets lead to a single point.  Gortat was also busy on the boards, collecting six of his game high 13 in the period.  Anthony Randolph was an irritant, however, as he poured in eight for the Nuggets to keep his team ahead.  The Suns were still lurking, though, hanging around within striking range.  Nuggets 65, Suns 60.

The Suns took their first lead of the game, 67-65, on a driving layup by Eric Bledsoe.  A lineup of Bledsoe, Goodwin, Green, Frye and Plumlee was clicking with EB shredding through the defense for easy layups and kickouts to teammates for open looks.   The Suns traded buckets with Denver for the next few minutes, leading 78-75 with 5:42 remaining before closing the game on a 20-4 run.  After scoring just 39 points in the first half, the Suns unleashed a deluge of 38 in the fourth quarter alone as they outscored the Nuggets by 24.  Five different Suns scored during the pivotal stretch where the Suns extended from a three point lead to double digits.

Final score: Suns 98, Denver 79

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Player of the Game:

Eric Bledsoe.  Player of the preseason, too.  He has given fans reason for optimism heading into the season.  His 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists made it pretty easy to overlook his five turnovers.

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Comments of the Game:

So what happened to that seven-seconds-or-less offense?

Is our new game plan now to take shots in the last seven second of the shot clock?

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I take it boxing out is illegal in preseason?

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The guy (Marshall) should take up knitting on the sideline

Probably could make complete outfits for the entire team by the end of the season

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Al McCoy, "The Suns had a brief lead... couldn't stand the prosperity."

*On the radio - had to put it in here.

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Bledsoe cuts

Green shoots

Frye shoots

Great drive and kick combo

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I think the Frye/Plumlee duo is going to be great off the bench

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GR33N!!!

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What a dish by Goran

And what a slam.

We win.

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The Good:

The fourth quarter.  What a paradigm shift from the early going.  It was every bit the dismantling that the 38-14 disparity would suggest.  Easily the best quarter of the preseason.  Everyone was clicking.  What an outstanding way to enter the regular season.

Three Suns reached double digits in rebounds - Gortat (13), Markieff (10) and Miles Plumlee (10).  Sure, Denver could have changed their name from Nuggets to Masons, but that is still impressive glass cleaning nonetheless.

Gerald Green.  He has quietly (or maybe not so quietly) had a very nice preseason.  While Marcus Morris had been very vanilla, the Green Machine appears to be very interested in garnering the available small forward minutes.  19 points in 19 minutes on 7-9 shooting (3-3 3P) only helps his cause.

6:47.  That's the amount of game time given to Dionte Christmas.  Considering nobody else on the bubble received any playing time that may bode well for Dionte.

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The Bad:

21 turnovers.  After magnanimously delving out 14 in the first half, the Suns fumbled five more away in the third before settling down.  This could have very well been the team's undoing if not for the about face in the fourth quarter.  As usual, Bledsoe and Dragic were the most serious offenders with five apiece.

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The Ugly:

The game wasn't exactly a prize fight through three quarters, but the Suns pulled it out of the fire at the end.

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Final Thoughts:

It was great to see the Suns hitting on all cylinders at the end of this game.  The guys that finished this one out will be the guys getting minutes in the regular season.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see the minute distribution at the beginning of the season be very similar to tonight.  This year will be all about progression, development and growth, and I think those were evident tonight.

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