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Suns Defense Zones Up The Nuggets: 101-85

The Phoenix Suns defense stifled the Denver Nuggets, holding them to 43% shooting and only 85 points in the 101-85 win. (Photo by Max Simbron)
The Phoenix Suns defense stifled the Denver Nuggets, holding them to 43% shooting and only 85 points in the 101-85 win. (Photo by Max Simbron)

You would think that the second ranked offense in the league wouldn't completely fold when faced with the zone defense but that's what happened Monday night in Phoenix.

After a first quarter that had Suns fans frustrated and mighty anxious and left the Nuggets with a 33-24 point lead, the tide went out like a receding Tsunami (too soon?).

"It was real shaky at the start, we gave up too many easy baskets," Coach Gentry explained of his team's listless initial 12 minutes of bleh-ball. "But I thought we did a really good job righting the ship. That second team came in and did a really good job of being in the zone."

The zone. The dreaded zone defense that normally leaves Suns fans and players hiding in fear of the onslaught to come.

"We almost kind of roll our eyes when Coach calls the zone. We don't want to go to the zone because we don't feel we are good at it," explained Mr. Grant Hill. "It hasn't always worked but it worked tonight."

As for why it worked so well (and by well we mean holding the Nuggets to 43% shooting) no one really knows. Hill and Dudley were both surprised that the Nuggets weren't able to adjust to what the Suns were doing.

Goran Dragic had this to say through his swollen lip that had four hairy stitches sticking out of it thanks to an inadvertent Billups elbow, "Sometimes when we play a zone everybody thinks it's just relaxing and all the time coach is repeating that zone is tougher to play than man-to-man. And today every player was engaged, every player was talking and we were just doing great job. If we were going to play like that we're going to be OK."

The Suns bench clearly won this game in the 2nd quarter holding the Nuggets to only 11 points while still managing 33 on the other end. It had to be the best 12 minute stretch for the reserves all season. Right? Can you think of a better period of play for those guys?

The Suns forced 8 turnovers leading to 16 points, out-rebounded Denver 12 to 6, held them to 33.3% shooting, and managed to hit 12 of 20 on the offensive end. The offensive numbers were obviously helped by run-outs after turnovers, but in the half court they did a good job taking advantage of Denver switching by finding Hill and Frye in the post. Those two combined for 13 points. Add in 10 from Goran, which included 2 threes, and it was an all around dominating performance that turned the tide.

Still, as good as the Suns played, and the energy off the bench was huge, the Nuggets also made for a nice patsy and played the part of shrinking violet to a tee.

Coach Karl talked about losing Ty Lawson to a shoulder injury yesterday and having Chris Andersen go out with knee tendinitis after the first half. He was also sure to mention that his team has played four games in five days. Cry me a river.

As for his team's inability to react to the zone, "I can't deny it bothered us."  I would say so.

This was a great win for the Suns. Going 1-1 against the Spurs and Nuggets on a back-to-back set is a success in my book. Holding the Carmelo to only 17 points on 21 field goal attempts and keeping the Nuggets off the line was huge.

In fact, statistically the biggest difference in the game was the Suns 33 FTAs versus only 16 for the Nuggets. The Suns ended up +16 from the line which you might notice is exactly the difference in the game score. Coincidence?

Yes, but still it was huge.


Other Notable Numbers

  • Suns continue to dominate the glass. Tonight they were +10 (46-36) with 6 more offensive rebounds
  • The Nuggets had 19 turnovers which led to 23 Suns points
  • The Suns only shot 44% themselves but won another game with their defense
  • The pace of the game was very un-Suns- and Nuggets-like. 88 possessions is well below the norm
  • Goran's breakaway two-handed dunk in the 2nd quarter left him face down on the deck. He said he was going too fast and his hands slipped. He also said the he didn't think Billups' elbow in the 4th was intentional. No, that wasn't a notable number but I needed somewhere to put it.
  • Nash had 11 points on 3 of 8 shooting and still recorded 10 assists. Amare put up a very respectable 19 and 10.
  • Robin had two blocks recorded and another that resulted in a jump ball that I guess didn't get counted as a block. He only played 16 minutes because Lou and Channing were playing so well and the Nuggets front line is very mobile and athletic and not very big.
  • In only 16:47 of play, Dragic had 12 points and 4 assists and was a + 20. He ran this town tonight.


Post Game Audio:

Post Game Links:

Court-side Game Notes:

1st Qtr

  • Mohammed Ali in the house!
  • There goes Amare's great shooting % from three
  • Robin with the total REJECTION on Nene and then gives him the stare-down to boot
  • Suns going to Robin early against Martin. Draws the foul on the original K-Mart. That guy in Texas (formerly in Sacramento) is no K-Mart.
  • Hill with two early buckets. Happy.
  • Both teams making dumb turnovers and generally not playing very inspired ball
  • Amare with the complete flop. Flopity flop flop flopper flop
  • Sure. Jason can hit from three but can't make a dunk (these jokes will go on for an appropriate amount of time)
  • Billups is kicking it old school tonight. 10 points and Suns are down 10. Coincidence? No
  • Nice help D block from Frye
  • Amare getting rocked on the boards by KMart. Guess he figures 41 and 12 yesterday gives him a pass today?
  • Billups catches Amare with the old "dribble in front of you and stop and you rear end me" foul. Amare fist pumps and draws the T
  • 24-33. Suns got rocked. Low energy and effort

2nd Qtr

  • Got the upgrade to the front row...nice. Nuggets end of the scorers table.
  • Dragic with the great blow by but can't finish with the right hand.
  • 24-37. Getting ugly now
  • Much better that time. Suns run JRich off a Frye screen and the Nuggets switch again. This time Dragic gets the ball to Frye in the post instead of giving it back to JRich on the wing w/ time running down
  • Nice three from Goran to cut it to 6. Suns aren't out of this one yet
  • I heard that slap in Lou's arm from hear. Of course, here is only about 50 ft away
  • Nice defensive possession  there from the Suns. Zone I think. This unit is playing solid D and picking up the energy
  • Great long bounce pass in transition from Goran to Dudley! Suns cut it to 2. Well done, bench bunch
  • Nene with the missed dunk (with a little help from Lou)
  • Suns on a 14-0 run!!
  • 16-0
  • Dragic can't miss both of those free throws...can't do it
  • Goran can't run the pick and roll. Let's just make that clear
  • Zone really working well tonight
  • 24-9 in this quarter so far. Well played. Suns now up 48-42. Great job by the second unit! Goran, Frye with D from Lou
  • JR Smith airball. Is there anything prettier?
  • Hill is killing it. They keep posting him up after switches. Smart. Grant with 13 points. Melo w/ 10
  • Dragic with the breakaway dunk! and falls on his face. A little embarrassed there
  • Ha! Martin holding the ball, staring down the ref about 12 feet in front of me
  • Dragic w/ another dunk! What a way to come back!!!
  • 33 to 11. Nice quarter. The Nuggets clearly haven't seen a zone defense before
  • And that run btw was with Nash AND Amare on the bench for the entire quarter

3rd Qtr

  • Great balanced scoring: Hill 13, Amare 8, Dragic 10, JRich 9, Frye 7, Lou 5, Nash 3 and Dudley 2
  • Robin getting to the right place at the right time which
  • Decent start to the 3rd. Keeping it even. 15 point lead
  • Another great block from Robin. Guess I shouldn't have worried about Grant. 17 points
  • Do the Nuggets have the heart to fight back? Don't think they do
  • Oh Robin, you didn't just do that!
  • Melo hit a three....don't let THAT guy heat up
  • Hit another...uh oh
  • Some idiot Nuggets fan sitting courtside is calling Billups, "smooth". Really?
  • Nugs with three straight three's cut it to 14
  • Sitting next to a scout from the Blazers. He's got some fancy software on his laptop for logging/charting plays
  • Nice finish on the move from Frye...they are letting a lot of contact go (but then they call that on JD?)
  • If you get a chance to sit court side of an NBA game, I would highly encourage it
  • 84-67

4th Qtr

  • Close out time. Another good 5 minutes could end this game fast (or in five minutes)
  • George Karl is leaning against the scorers table right in front of me. He's big. Move please, George.
  • Thanks
  • Nice hustle by Lou!
  • Who is Malik Allen? Is he related to Malik Rose?
  • After that play Goran gathered his boys and gave them some instructions. He wanted Frye to be somewhere else or something. Nice
  • Suns really taking advantage of the Nuggets 3 guard line-up but posting Hill in the post
  • Goran got a close look at Bilups elbow. Got him right in the mouth
  • Chauncey walked over and apologized to Goran for the elbow. Classy
  • Nash has to come back in early while they work on Goran's bloody face
  • Lou butter hands
  • Lou makes up for it by getting the hoop and the harm. Love that old school hoop and harm phrase
  • Suns up 17 with 7 minutes to go. That should work, right?
  • Melo with 20 FGAs and 17 points
  • Down to 12...
  • Suns missing Dragic. He was a +23 wihch lead all players
  • 15 points with 2:50 to go. That should do it.
  • Suns have 29 FTA's to 16 for Denver. That's the biggest difference in this game
  • Taylor Griffin time! Goran telling him what to do
  • Amare just looked over and took himself out of the game
  • Nice Great win

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