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Game Preview: Phoenix Suns Visit Denver to Face Nuggets in Rematch

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The Phoenix Suns were riding high with three convincing wins behind scorching scoring from the explosive guard tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight before getting roasted by Jimmy Butler and the Bulls Wednesday. Tonight, Phoenix hopes to bounce back against a Denver Nuggets team they manhandled less than a week ago.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

  • Who: Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
  • When: 7PM AZ Time
  • Watch: Fox Sports AZ, NBA League Pass
  • Listen: AZ Sports 98.7 FM

When the Suns (6-5) last faced the Nuggets (6-6) in Phoenix last Saturday night, it was no contest. The Suns stepped on the Nuggets' throats early and never let up, leading 27-13 after the first quarter and never looking back en route to a 105-81 thumping. Suffocating Suns defense combined with inept Nugs' shooting to allow only two Nuggets to score in double figures, led by Will Barton's 19.

While the Nuggets have played a few stinkers this season, with all of their losses coming by double digits, a win tonight doesn't figure to come quite so easily for the Suns. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight have been outstanding, each averaging over 20 PPG and demanding serious All-Star consideration, but the rest of the roster's performance has been uneven.

Third leading scorer Markieff Morris is averaging 12.2 PPG on a disappointing 39% shooting from the field. Tyson Chandler and P.J. Tucker continue to play their intangible-rich games, but the bench has been a scattered affair with Alex Len continuing his up and down play, Sonny Weems looking like a bust so far, and Mirza Teletovic only now starting to show he might be finding his rhythm.

The Suns' best bench player has been T.J. Warren, averaging 19.6 points/36 mins on a robust 54.7 eFG%. And speaking of healthy shooting %s, Devin Booker has shined in limited action, shooting an absurd 78% from behind the arc (small sample size of 7-9). Despite some rookie mistakes, Booker is mature beyond his barely 19 years. We can probably expect his playing time to increase as the season goes along.

As for the Nuggets, their 6-6 record so far is respectable considering they're coming off a 50 loss season in which they fired their head coach Brian Shaw amidst chatter he couldn't communicate or relate with his players. They're not a contender for a playoff spot, and don't excel at any one thing, but do boast some intriguing youngsters in Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic. Danilo Gallinari is actually healthy, and Barton is playing surprisingly well through 12 games of the season.

At home, we have to expect the Nuggets will come out with more energy and urgency than they did Saturday, when they were coming off a game the previous night. This is a game the Suns should be able to win, but not in an end to end blowout like last time.

Projected starting fives:

PG: Eric Bledsoe vs. Emmanuel Mudiay

SG: Brandon Knight vs. Gary Harris

SF: P.J. Tucker vs. Danilo Gallinari

PF: Markieff Morris vs. Kenneth Faried

C: Tyson Chandler vs. J.J. Hickson

Injury/illness note: After missing Wednesday's night's loss to the Bulls with an illness, Warren will play in Denver tonight, reports AZ Central's Paul Coro.

Ray's pick: Suns 108, Nuggets 99

Join the game thread here on Bright Side of the Sun, posted 30 minutes before game time, for all the fun.

All statistics cited courtesy of BasketballReference.com