There is absolutely no way this game ends well for the Phoenix Suns. Whatever your bar is for the Suns' performance in this game, lower it. I'm eschewing the typical "match-up" format for this preview in favor of bullet points, because while the Suns may have an edge here or there with regards to personnel, none of that has mattered so far on Second Nights.
I know that's not very Bright Side of me, but the deck is stacked heavily against the Suns tonight:
Also, when the other 4 starters are not shooting well, that means fewer assists for Nash, which means he's reduced to being a scorer, which he does more than competently. At some point, Robin Williams is going to show up and hug Nash and tell him, "It's not your fault (unless your man went for a career-high again)."
The Nuggets are 1 of only 3 teams that plays at a faster pace than the Suns, so there is no "running these guys off the court." Oh yes, the game also takes place a mile above sea level. Winded won't even begin to cover how Phoenix will feel come the second half.
Guard play: As awesome as Chauncey Billups vs. Steve Nash sounds on paper, I doubt we'll see it very often. I expect we'll see lots of J-Rich on Billups (who is tough cover for Nash) and vice versa while the Nuggets continue the trend of putting longer defenders on Nash in the form of Arron "I'd Like To Buy A Vowel" Afflalo.
Guard play, part 2: The Suns badly need Jason Richardson to shake off his Second Night slumping if they hope to have a prayer in this game. His shooting percentage drops from .485 to .385 on Second Nights.
Guard play, part 3: Goran Dragic against Ty Lawson could be really, really fun if Dragon Frosty shows up. However, if it's Tragic Frosty, he will find himself in a couple of posters before the night is through. I have a hunch Dragon Frosty will be making an appearance tonight (though Dragon Frosty runs the risk of melting himself, so I don't really know how that works in the grand scheme of things).
Ditto Channing Frye whose 3PT percentage drops from .435 to .300 on Second Nights. If he's not hitting, that frees up Nene, Chris Andersen, and/or Kenyon Martin to stay in and protect the paint. It's an offensive double whammy for the Suns as it hurts both their perimeter and inside games when he is missing.
Jared Dudley and Grant Hill will have their hands full with Carmelo Anthony. And by "full" I mean "no one else has been able to guard him this season and I don't see that trend magically ending tonight." Carmelo has been downright Kobe-like in his ability to score from anywhere inside of half-court this season.
Amare Stoudemire has to get it going on down low, which is a tall order against Martin, Birdman and Nene. The Nuggets get more free throws per field goal attempt than any team in the NBA. A healthy dose of Amar'e And-1s would help things considerably tonight.
Unless the Suns suddenly start closing out on shooters, I can see J.R. "My Name Is Isn't Earl" Smith going to town on Phoenix tonight. Again.
The one true Bright Side I foresee going into this game is that since the Nuggets are a faster team than the Suns' more recent opponents, I expect to see heavier minutes for Lou Amundson and "My Name Really Is Earl" Clark. If 'Melo gets it going early, Gentry might give Earl a whirl on the Denver's scoring machine. And we all know how much Nene likes playing against Looooooooouuuuuuuu.
- Denver is ranked 3rd in offensive efficiency. The Suns are ranked 23rd in defensive efficiency.
- The Suns are on the second night of a back-to-back. They are 1-4 in these games, 0-4 against teams with a winning percentage higher than .217.
- On second night games, ALL the Suns starters shoot notably worse except for one: Steve Nash. He actually has higher FG and 3PT percentages on the wrong side of back-to-backs than his season averages. His overall totals are down in these games, but so are his minutes as they've generally ended in blow-outs. Could Steve Nash be any more amazing?
This game has blow out written all over it. The Suns remaining competitive for more than 2 quarters, much less winning this game, flies in the face of everything we've seen from them so far this season. For the Suns to win, they have to somehow find that crazy offensive rhythm they had through the first 17 games of the season and Denver has to be commensurately ice cold from the field. A Suns victory isn't impossible tonight, just highly improbable. But that's why they play the games, eh? Denver wins 122-100 and the Suns get a moral taco victory.
P.S. - I have no problem being wrong about all of the above and the Suns pulling one out tonight.
[Note by Mike Lisboa, 12/12/09 11:55 AM PST ]
It's unfortunate this is a Second Night game, because with both teams well-rested, this match-up has the potential to be a fast-paced yet nasty shoot-out. Fortunately, the next couple of times these two teams it will be after a day or two's rest.
Check out the view from a Mile High over at Denver Stiffs.
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