The last time the Suns and Nuggets met, things got pretty ugly, and it wasn’t even the Nuggets’ best players.
But that was the preseason and the Suns have started to find their identity, or so it seems.
The Suns will get their first look at the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups on Monday night in the second game of a brutal stretch that began Sunday against the Lakers on the road.
Anthony enters the game averaging 25.0 points (fifth-best in the NBA) and 8.0 rebounds per game. So much for distractions over his contract.
As if having to handle Kobe Bryant on Sunday wasn’t enough of a chore (“handle” to the tune of 25 points and 14 assists), the Suns are tasked with trying to contain Anthony on the second game of an away-home back-to-back.
The Suns spent a great deal of energy topping the Lakers while knocking down a franchise record 22 three-pointers. Whether or not the team, particularly the starters, has the energy to match up with the Nuggets will play a huge part in the outcome in this game. Their may be a little pride on the line for the purple and orange though, as the Suns have beat the Nuggets in 11 straight regular season games in US Airways Center.
Much like the 2009-10 Suns, the 2010-11 Suns will likely lean pretty heavily on the three-pointer, as evidenced by Sunday’s 22-of-40 effort. All it takes to shut a team like that down is solid perimeter defense (you’d imagine the Lakers might have had some.)
The Nuggets may just be a team to stop the Suns from making it rain. Denver is currently allowing opponents a 47 percent field goal percentage, but only 33.1 percent from long range, good enough for eighth-best in the league.
If the Nuggets can do that, the game will be theirs for the taking, as the Suns have struggled of late to rebound and defend (part of what we call Suns basketball).
The Suns currently lead the league in offensive rebounds allowed per game (15.8) and their -6.0 rebounding differential is worst in the NBA as well. The Suns rebounding issues begin (but certainly do not end) with injured center Robin Lopez, who will be out tonight anyway.
The Suns will have to limit mistakes against the Nuggets, as the Nuggets will certainly capitalize. The Nuggets sport the NBA’s top turnover ratio, at 21.9. That is, just 21.9 percent of Denver’s possessions result in turnovers. The Suns, meanwhile are tied for 21st in the league at 25.5.
There are probably hundreds of ways to statistically predict how this game might play out, but the Suns have shown thus far that they are mostly unpredictable. Again, this game will likely come down to how much the Suns have left in the tank after Sunday night’s thriller.
It may seem so far that the Suns are struggling, but consider that three of the team’s four losses have come against teams with a combined 22-8 record, and it doesn’t seem so bad.
Further, the Suns have beat two of the Western Conference’s top five teams and one of the East’s top three. All the Suns need now, on top of the rebounding, is a little consistency.