What: Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets
When: 6:00 pm (Phoenix time)
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
After a tough 100-98 win on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Phoenix Suns (8-7) close out their back-to-back road trip with a game against the juggernaut Denver Nuggets (11-3). The Suns will no doubt be looking to avenge their 108-107 loss they suffered at the Nuggets’ hands earlier this year but it won’t be easy.
The Suns head into this game short handed as two of their starters, center Aron Baynes and point guard Ricky Rubio, were ruled out for the Minnesota game. Even if the two play, the 11-3 Nuggets have been on fire recently. Denver has won eight of their last nine games with their one loss being against the Atlanta Hawks. There’s a lot of impressive wins during this stretch for the Nuggets but the two biggest were against the Rockets and Celtics, both happening a day in between each other.
A lot of the success the Nuggets are having right now is anchored on their defense as it’s ranked 2nd in defensive net rating with 102, while the Suns are 12th with 105.7. The Nuggets aren’t as successful on the offensive as they are 18th in offensive net rating with 106.4, behind ninth place Phoenix who’s at 109.6. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching these two teams battle it out in Denver tonight.
Denver Nuggets (11-3)
Probable Starting Lineup: Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
Injuries: Center Bol Bol (injury management) out.
The Nuggets are playing with the same intensity and fire as last year’s team. Jokic has been a stud for the team so far this year, averaging 17.3 points per game, 9.5 rebounds per game and 6.1 assists per game, the last two are leading the team. Murray is leading the team in points per game with 18.7 while also getting assists (5.1) and rebounds (4.6). The two are the main “stars” on the team but the entire team plays well, particularly on the defensive end. The team surrenders the 4th least points on turnovers with 14.1 and second in least points scored on second chances with 10.6.
The team has struggled to put up points offensively as only their starters average more than 10 ppg. A problem area for the Nuggets their lack of shooting from the three point line. The Nuggets average 29.6 threes shot per game, 26th in the league and make 10.4 per game, 25th in the league. Though this gives them 35.2 team shooting percentage at three, 17th in the league, it’s tough to rack up points if the offense isn’t relying on the three ball.
The Nuggets aren’t going to break offensive records this year but they’re sharing the ball very well amongst each other. Denver is ranked 7th in team assist per game with 25.9 and they don’t lose the ball easily, ranking 4th in least team assist per game with 13.6.
Phoenix Suns (8-7)
Probable Starting Lineup: Tyler Johnson, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr., Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky.
Injuries: Ricky Rubio (back) - day-to-day, Aron Baynes (hip) - day-to-day, Ty Jerome (ankle) - OUT.
The Suns have struggled as of late, just breaking out of their three game losing streak with the win over Minnesota. A good reason behind that is the lack of Baynes and Rubio in the lineup these last few games, forcing the Suns to improvise with their starting point guard and center. If they can return fully healthy this game, we can see the team get back into their groove but that’s a big if.
The Suns offense is run through Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr., with Booker averaging 25.6 ppg, 12th in the league and Oubre racking up 18.1 ppg. Booker has also done well assisting his teammates, hitting 6.7 apg, second best after Rubio. Oubre has been crashing on the boards and collected 6.1 rpg, best on the team.
Though there’s a lot going against the Suns, the performance against Minnesota should give fans hope as when saw Booker light them up for 35-12-9. When he plays like this, efficient scorer who distributes the ball around, it’s tough to slow this team down. What’s even more impressive is Booker didn’t even hit a three that entire game, going 0-5. The team desperately needs him to recreate that performance tonight.
The Suns have slipped a bit from their hot start but are still playing well, leading the league in assist percentage with 68.3 and is second in team assist per game with 27.5. The team is still shooting well from the three point line, hitting 37.1% of those shots, seventh best in the league.
Points: Devin Booker (25.6)
Rebounds: Kelly Oubre Jr. (6.1)
Assists: Ricky Rubio (8.1)
The Suns are finishing a back-to-back road trip and are banged up. Even if Baynes and/or Rubio plays, they’re not going to be in rhythm. Meanwhile, the Nuggets got a day of rest and are home for this game.
It’s going to be close, especially if Rubio plays, but I got Nuggets winning by 6.