The game started well for the wounded Suns, keeping pace with the Nuggets and going bucket for bucket with them. The team was able to pass the ball well and set up numerous open shots, racking up 25 assists in the game.
Though Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. didn’t shoot well (combined 9-25 for 22 points), the Suns’ bench racked up 50 points to balance their struggle. Power forwards Cheick Diallo and Dario Saric especially shined tonight, Diallo hitting 10-12 shots for 22 points and Saric got 18 points and a career high of 17 rebounds.
The defense played ferocious despite the absence of Aron Baynes and were aggressive defending shots, especially in transition. The first half, you could tell the team was energized and driven to not let the shooters score, attacking the three point line with passion. And that worked, at least in the first half, as the Suns gave up 4 threes.
However, the team started to slip up against the Nuggets in the second half as the offense started to sputter while the Nuggets kept pace.
With Ricky Rubio out and Oubre and Booker struggling, the Suns just didn’t have anyone to break through the Nuggets defense. The two other starters, Frank Kaminsky and Tyler Johnson, both put up 7 points but neither could do enough to justify their lack of points in rebounds and assists.
The tough defensive play affected Nuggets’ star Nikola Jolie, as he put up 8 points but he grabbed 13 rebounds and five assists. However, Denver’s starters was able to balance out his tough performance as Jamal Murray, Will Barton and Paul Millsap put up 67 combined points.
It’s tough for the Suns to win any games when Rubio is out, DeAndre Ayton and Baynes aren’t playing and Booker and Oubre struggle. Through heart and defensive grit, the Suns made it a game and were leading at some points. The bench and the defense did as much as they could to compensate for the struggling offense but once the Nuggets started running away with the lead, the Suns just couldn’t catch up.
The team has a couple days of rest before they face the Washington Wizards at home Wednesday at 7:00 PM. There’s an expectation that Baynes and/or Rubio will be healthy for that game and that should place the Suns back on their winning ways.