clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Preview: Merry Christmas Suns fans — you get to cap off the holiday with Suns-Nuggets!

The Phoenix Suns visit the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night, the last game of the national TV schedule.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

DENVER NUGGETS VS PHOENIX SUNS, NBA Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns (19-14, 4th in West) at Denver Nuggets (20-11, 1st in West)

When: Sunday, Xmas DAY, 8:30 PM AZ time

Where: Denver’s mile high altitude

Watch: ESPN

Listen: 98.7 FM


Your Phoenix Suns need a Christmas miracle! A healthy body for Devin Booker. More heart and physicality from the other guys. Ask Santa. Or the Wizard of Oz. I don’t care. Whoever’s available. Just get the Suns something good for Christmas please!

The Suns are struggling bad, missing a bunch of players including their MVP caliber All-Star, Devin Booker. They’ve lost two straight games, and seven of 10, begun with a blowout loss to the Celtics and capped with a blowout to Memphis on Friday night. Their defense is a sieve. Their Booker-less offense is horrendous against a bad defense. And don’t even get me started on the foul issue — way too many given freely, and way too few collected. Ugh.

And so this is Christmas...I hope you have fun...The near and the dear ones...The old and the young.

A very merry Christmas...and a happy Suns game...let’s hope it’s a good one...without any pain...

Today they face the Denver Nuggets, who are finally getting healthy for the first time in two years and winners of 6 of their last 7 games, including a big win this week over that same Memphis team.

A very merry Christmaaaaas....


Probable Starting Lineups

Look at that! The Nuggets are healthy again...

Injured/Out

Suns:

  • Devin Booker (groin soreness) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Cameron Payne (foot) is OUT
  • Cameron Johnson (knee) is OUT
  • Jae Crowder (where for art thou Jae) is NOT WITH TEAM

Nuggets:

  • Jeff Green (hand) is OUT
  • Jamal Murray (foot) is PROBABLE
  • Zeke Nnaji (finger) is PROBABLE

Nuggets Update

  • Offense: 116.0 (3rd)
  • Defense: 113.9 (23rd)
  • Net: +2.2 (7th)

A healthy Denver Nuggets play a beautiful brand of basketball, at least on the offensive end. They are, for the season, pretty much what the Suns are this month alone — good on offense, terrible on defense.

They have had a weird schedule to start the year, leading the West playoff teams in road games played (17 of 31) while also having played some of the fewest games against winning teams (16 of 31).

Jamal Murray is starting to round into form, but he’s been up and down so far this season while trying to find his rhythm as well as his athleticism again. His great games are few, but he’s on the way back and already scoring over his career average in points per game (17.5 this year vs. 16.4 for his career) but not quite to the level he’d reached when he suffered the knee injury (21.2 per game). He’s acting as more of a facilitator than ever, putting up a career high 5.7 assists per game so far.

Michael Porter Jr. returned to their lineup on Friday night and scored 18 points in the win. Altogether, the Nuggets preferred starting lineup is finally back together and making hay. Aaron Gordon is having an incredible year, helping buoy a team that’s been nursing Murray and Porter back to health.

But of course it all comes down to Nikola Jokic. He’s the two-time reigning MVP and arguably having his best season yet. The dude is 7 feet tall and somehow putting up nearly a 25-point triple double every night — 24.7 points, 11 rebounds, 9.2 assists per game. He’s fun to watch (if you’re not the opponent) and darn near unstoppable on the offensive end.

If you’re going to beat the Nuggets, you have to outscore them and they will give you that chance, as they’re only ranked 23rd on that end this season. The Suns are going to have ‘hit first’ and make their shots to take this game, with or without Booker.


Suns Update

  • Offense: 116.1 (2nd)
  • Defense: 111.9 (tied for 10th)
  • Net: +4.2 (5th)

The Suns may ranked higher than the Nuggets in these catch-all categories of offense, defense and net rating, but they’re not playing well lately at all. The swoon began with back to back blowout losses to the Mavericks and Celtics and was capped by the blowout loss to the Grizzlies on Friday night.

Altogether, they have lost 7 of 10 games with 5 of those basically being blowout losses. Tow of their three wins in this stretch were against the heavily depleted Clippers and Lakers. The one good win was Booker’s 58-point spectacular against the Pelicans last Saturday...that immediately put him on the shelf for the past week.

Let’s hope Book comes back, because these Book-less Suns look a lot like the Steph-less Warriors — bad bad bad.

Worst of all, this month’s version of the Suns — with or without Book — have way too many games they don’t even bother to emotionally show up.

The rest of this preview I’ll simply turn over to the Suns themselves, in their own words:

“Whether it is Boston, Memphis, these teams that are big and physical and want to put their hands on us,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said Friday. “We don’t have the pre-game edge that we’ve had around here. We got to get back to chasing something and right now I feel like the prey and I don’t like that feeling.”

“I felt the same way after the Boston game,” Williams said. “Tonight I felt like they came in here with a playoff mentality and we got to understand that. Teams are, for whatever reason, looking at us as a team that they can be more physical with and try to set that tone from the jump.”

Yep, that’s for sure. Friday night was another example — for the first three quarters at least — where they get out-free-throwed by 20. That’s become way too common: the opponent being very physical, yet dominating the game at the free throw line.

Landry Shamet chimed in: “Basketball stuff doesn’t matter if you do not have that physicality, approach, mentality that you need to win games in the NBA. We just didn’t have that tonight.”

“I am not going to downplay the fact that we miss Book (Devin Booker),” he continued. “Of course, we do. He is an All-NBA guy. He should be in the MVP conversation. We miss him. Back to what I said, none of the basketball X’s and O’s stuff even matters if you do not pick up on our end that mentality, physicality, and hit-first. That is where it all starts.”

We’ll see which Suns team shows up on Xmas night.


Prediction

Enjoy the day!

And so this is Christmas...I hope you have fun...The near and the dear ones...The old and the young.

A very merry Christmas...and a happy Suns game...let’s hope it’s a good one...without any pain...

As for the game, it all depends on Book’s health and the Suns overall mentality. On the good side, the Nuggets are NOT a team that tries to punk their opponent with physicality, so that’s good.

But it’s going to take a NEW mentality, something we haven’t seen since Thanksgiving, for the Suns win on Christmas night.


The Suns will tip off against the Nuggets at 8:30 PM AZ Time. All nationally televised NBA games can be watched on Sling TV.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bright Side of the Sun Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Phoenix Suns news from Bright Side of the Sun