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Phoenix Suns look to stanch the bleeding against the Denver Nuggets

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The Suns have gone 0-3 since their four days off

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Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets

Time: 7 pm (Phoenix time)

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM


Holidays with Deadpoolio is back and just in time, too. Otherwise, you might’ve missed out on a bevy of holidays today, including New Friends Day, Get to Know Your Customers Day, and Tin Can Day. I know which one I’ll be celebrating.

The Phoenix Suns (16-29) will be looking to bounce back from three straight subpar performances as they travel into the Rocky Mountains to take on the Denver Nuggets (23-22).

Nuggets Update

The Nuggets are coming off a 109-104 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in LA on Wednesday. They begin a five-game homestand tonight.

Nikola Jokic is still the top name on the scouting report for the Nuggets. He recently had his first triple-double of the season and put up 29 points, 18 rebounds, and seven assists against the Dallas Mavericks three nights ago. Gary Harris has upped his scoring output to a team-best 17.2 points, and only teammates Mason Plumlee, Kenneth Faried, and Trey Lyles shoot better from the field than Harris and his 49.7 percent. Jamal Murray has been very good as Denver’s point guard this season, but with him more than likely out with a concussion, sub Will Barton can expect to see more time as a starter. Barton has averaged 19.5 points, 6.0 assists, and 5.5 rebounds over his last two games — both starts. Plumlee had a nice game for Denver against the Clippers, putting up 16 points and 14 rebounds, but his minutes have been sporadic this season.

Very little has changed about Denver since they last faced Phoenix on Jan. 3. The Nuggets are still an explosive offensive team that struggles to maintain consistency and intensity, and their defense remains exploitable, allowing opponents to shoot 47.3 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3. The loss of Paul Millsap has been difficult for them to overcome, and with him not expected back until after the All-Star break at least, the struggle to stay afloat in the West will continue.

Team Leaders

Points: Gary Harris (17.2)

Rebounds: Nikola Jokic (10.2)

Assists: Nikola Jokic (5.0)

Suns Update

After four days off between games last week, the Suns appear to have developed competitive basketball amnesia, dropping three straight. Either that or someone reminded them that the tank needs some love.

Devin Booker has been one of the few bright spots for Phoenix over these past three losses. He’s averaging 28.3 points, 8.0 assists, and 5.7 rebounds although his turnovers have also ballooned (5.0). Still, he’s been one of the few players providing efficient offense. Josh Jackson, for example, has averaged 14.5 points over the same span but has shot 39.3 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3 in getting those points. Similarly, Dragan Bender, who has been starting for the injured Marquese Chriss, has averaged just 6.7 points on 30.4-percent shooting from the field and 33.3-percent shooting from 3. A bigger concern than poor offense, though, should be the team’s mental focus on defense. Head coach Jay Triano has complained for several games now about his team’s perimeter defenders going under screens instead of fighting over the top, and Booker told Scott Bordow of azcentral.com after the loss to the Portland Trail Blazers that “We’ve never had a scheme of going under any pick-and-rolls.” So then, maybe stop?

Team Leaders

Points: Devin Booker (25.2)

Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (9.8)

Assists: Devin Booker (4.6)

Injury Report

Marquese Chriss (Suns): strained right hip flexor (OUT)

Brandon Knight (Suns): torn left ACL (OUT)

Alan Williams (Suns): torn right meniscus (OUT)

Paul Millsap (Nuggets): left wrist surgery (OUT)

Jamal Murray (Nuggets): concussion protocol (DOUBTFUL)

Game Preview

The Nuggets won the first meeting of the season between these two teams back on Jan. 3 by a score of 134-111 after Gary Harris blitzed the Suns in the 1st quarter, scoring 20 points in the period. Ultimately, it was an uninspired effort from everyone not named Greg Monroe. Marquese Chriss remains shelved, but the Suns should have T.J. Warren in uniform and recovered from his sore lower back. All the Suns need to do now is find a way to keep the Nuggets from shooting 62.2 percent from the field like they did two weeks ago against Phoenix, keep Nikola Jokic from having a good night, stop players like Gary Harris from going off, don’t let Denver maul them on the offensive glass, prevent them from….

Key Matchup

Devin Booker vs. Gary Harris

Both Booker and Harris are known more for their offense than their defense, meaning this could be an old-fashioned shootout. In the previous meeting, Booker managed 17 points on 4-of-13 shooting while Harris tied his career high with 36 points on 14-of-17 shooting. If the Suns are to win, Booker must win this matchup and needs to do so by a comfortable margin. Even if he plays Harris to a draw, the Suns likely don’t have the firepower behind Booker to overcome what Denver presents unless the Nuggets have an off day. Booker has to be the clear victor for the Suns to stand a chance.

Deadpoolio’s Neat-o Stat of the Game Preview (brought to you by basketball-reference.com)

With the Suns closing in on the NBA’s all-time record for most consecutive games with a made 3-pointer, it seemed fitting to look back and see when the last time was the Suns went consecutive games without making a 3. As it turns out, that was on Feb 2-4, 1996. In the two games combined, the Suns were 0 of 7 from deep, with the Feb. 4 game seeing Phoenix attempt just two 3-pointers (one each from Charles Barkley and Wesley Person) in a game that went to overtime against the Washington Bullets.

Strange times, indeed.

All stats courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference.com.