Despite a couple of days of rest and the opportunity to take on a team that dropped its previous four games, the Suns couldn’t get it done against the Nuggets, losing 120-104 and stretching their losing streak to three games.
As one might expect, the backcourt is all that showed up for Phoenix. Devin Booker put up 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting, and Leandro Barbosa added 12 points on a highly efficient 6-of-8 line.
But the real story was Brandon Knight, who kept the game from becoming a blowout throughout the second half as he took many of the same pull-up and step back jumpers that Suns fans are used to seeing in his repertoire. The difference is, tonight those shots went in.
Knight poured in 29 points in just 27 minutes on 11-of-19 shooting in what some might consider his first “good” performance of the season. Going into the game he was shooting a putrid 34 percent from the field and 24 percent from long-range, but in tonight’s match he truly looked like the energizing spark off the bench that Coach Watson raved about in the preseason.
The rest of the Suns were unimpressive. T.J. Warren shot just 2-of-11 from the field, and Eric Bledsoe contributed six turnovers. P.J. Tucker was given 21 minutes of floor time despite bricking all five of his shot attempts.
The team overall shot 49.4 percent from the field, but offense wasn’t the problem. It rarely seems to be the problem this season.
Instead the Suns, who allow more points per game than any other team in the NBA, were abused by Denver’s frontcourt. Wilson Chandler had a monster game with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists in the win, and Kenneth Faried posted 20 points, 15 rebounds and 4 steals off the bench. Gallinari contributed another 18, going 9-for-9 from the line.
This was a winnable game for Phoenix against a young, struggling team without a couple of its key backcourt players (most notably Will Barton and Gary Harris). But the Suns got off to a poor start and were only able to remain even with Denver for the rest of the game without ever gaining ground. The offense picked up, mostly thanks to Knight rather than any crisp ball movement, and the defense looked flat all along.
The next six games will be against the Pacers, Sixers, Wizards, Magic, Timberwolves, and Nuggets. Those teams are a combined 22-44. Despite the road trip, a less than .500 stretch here could mean that Phoenix is in serious trouble.