The Time: 7:00 pm (Phoenix time)
The Place: Pepsi Center
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM/1400 AM (Spanish)
The Suns will square off against the Nuggets tonight in their fourth and final meeting of the season. They played well against Denver in their two games at Talking Stick Resort Arena - a 102-93 win and a 122-118 loss - but were beaten soundly in the Pepsi Center back in October (119-91). The Suns have changed a lot since that first meeting but their play has been so erratic lately that it’s difficult to predict whether we should expect another close game or another blowout.
That won’t stop me from giving it a try though.
The Nuggets (31-15)
OffRtg - 113.1 (4th), DefRtg - 108.1 (12th), NetRtg - plus 5.0 (5th-tie)
Probable Starting Lineup: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
Injury report: Isaiah Thomas (hip) - out, Michael Porter Jr. (back) - out, Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) - game time decision.
Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic has been suspended one game without pay by the NBA for leaving bench during altercation Wednesday night in Utah.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 25, 2019
The Nuggets have the 2nd best record in the West and the 5th best in the NBA. They in virtually every way outmatch the Suns but somehow they’ve kept the last two games close and stole a win from them. Nikola Jokic leads the Nuggets in points, rebounds and assists and you might think that the way to beat them is by stopping him but that’s too much to ask. You don’t stop him, you just do your best to keep him from having a great game. How the Suns’ got their win was by slowing down the rest of Denver’s team while keeping Jokic at around his season averages.
Denver is a gifted offensive team so repeating that is going to be difficult. The Suns also played Jokic well in their 122-118 loss but in the process let Jamal Murray run wild and rack up 46 points. In their win, the Suns held him to just 12 points.
Denver is a very good three point shooting team (35.7%, 11th) so they have to be tightly defended all the way out to the three point line. They’re also tied for 1st in offensive rebounding and 7th in overall rebounding, something that the Suns are bad at (28th and 29th respectively) so even if the Suns do make them miss shots, odds are that they’ll still get plenty of second - and third - chances.
Points: Nikola Jokic (19.8)
Rebounds: Nikola Jokic (10.3)
Assists: Nikola Jokic (7.7)
The Suns (11-39)
OffRtg - 103.9 (29th), DefRtg - 112.7 (28th), NetRtg - minus 8.8 (28th)
Probable Starting Lineup: Elie Okobo, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender
Injury report: T.J. Warren (ankle) - out, Deandre Ayton (ankle) - game time decision, Richaun Holmes (foot) - game time decision, De’Anthony Melton (ankle) - game time decision.
Ayton, Melton and Warren all out tonight, per Suns. Holmes is questionable.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) January 25, 2019
How many back-to-backs have the Suns played this season? This makes their 9th but somehow it seems like more than that. Probably because they only had two before December started so they’ve been quite frequent in the last two months. So far, they have yet to win a game on the second night of a back-to-back.
That does not bode well for the Suns but I’m not telling you anything new. Added to that is the growing injury list for Phoenix. T.J. Warren is definitely out tonight, Deandre Ayton and Richaun Homles may be sidelined again and De’Anthony Melton will also likely be on the bench in street clothes due to an ankle sprain against the Blazers. That dims the outlook for this game even more.
Points: Devin Booker (24.3)
Rebounds: Deandre Ayton (10.6)
Assists: Devin Booker (6.8)
Even if Melton, Ayton and/or Holmes can play tonight, tired legs, thin air and an even thinner bench will eventually take their toll even if the Suns manage to get off to a good start. The better rested Nuggets should eventually take control on their home court and send the Suns home with another loss... probably a big one.
Expect the Suns’ losing streak to extend to seven games as they lose big in Denver, 122-98.