When: 7:00 PM AZ Time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
After a tough loss in Denver on Thursday night, the Suns will have the opportunity to salvage the season series against the Nuggets at home. Nikola Jokic, perhaps the most skilled young big man in the league this side of The Process, has already been ruled out for tonight’s game due to a strained hip flexor.
On one hand, Jokic’s absence should enhance the chances for a Suns victory greatly as he was a main contributor towards Denver mauling Phoenix 46 to 28 on the boards the other night. Coach Earl Watson was dumbfounded that his team was outrebounded by that margin and was still within striking distance during the waning minutes of the fourth, and I’m sure most of us shared that same sentiment.
Denver’s rebounding prowess is no fluke, as they possess an army of scrappers and energetic leapers that orb around the smooth Jokic. Phoenix will not be able to rely on their usual tactic of letting Tyson Chandler gobble up all of the rebounds singularly. No, containing the Nuggets on the glass requires a conscious group effort with each man boxing out their own before any damage can be done.
Kenneth Faried figures to get more run due to Jokic’s absence, and he will be an interesting matchup for the likes of Marquese Chriss and P.J. Tucker. Chriss has the requisite pogo sticks to go toe to toe with Faried, but 75 percent of containing the Manimal is matching his effort level.
In the backcourt, Jameer Nelson is logging major minutes for the Nuggets, providing a stabilizing force among their litany of young talent. Despite Nelson’s heady play, Eric Bledsoe should have no problem continuing his torrid pace — especially playing within the friendly confines of home. Tonight feels like a triple double game from Bledsoe, doesn’t it? Both teams want to play fast, Bledsoe will have to help on the boards, and there should be more than enough opportunities to make plays for his teammates.
There will be a loud majority clamoring for the Suns to lose this game and distance themselves once and for all away from the eighth seed in the West. I am not sure which side I sit on, but I am fairly certain that a loss tonight could begin to stir the pot towards a shuffling of the roster.
With that said, my guess is that the Suns win tonight and stifle any plans for a celebratory nosedive into tank mode.