Preview: Phoenix Suns (15-20) at Denver Nuggets (20-16)

Denver Nuggets 132, Phoenix Suns 98



PHOENIX — While the Denver Nuggets inch closer and closer to landing a blockbuster deal that would send Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey, all the Phoenix Suns want is to start winning quarters, halves, and eventually games.

“Right now we need to have some success quarter by quarter by quarter. Right now I think we have to, if you want to call it microcompeting or whatever, but we have to win quarters, we have to win halves and we have to win games before we even consider anything about the playoffs,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “We’ve got to get to the point of feeling that we have some consistency working.”

The Suns were able to sneak by the Cavaliers on Sunday, but Cleveland sits at the bottom of the NBA standings and it took 13 Suns three-pointers and 39.3 percent shooting from the Cavs for Phoenix to edge them in an eight-point victory.

With competition ramping up and the Suns sitting three and a half games behind Portland for the eighth spot in the West, Phoenix needs to starting stringing together some good stretches of basketball.

Consistency has been an issue all season long, and the Suns struggled with that even against Cleveland. They trailed for the entire first half and looked like the lifeless team that lost 11 of its last 14 games prior. Although they were able to put together a run and sneak past the Cavaliers, the Nuggets are quite a step up from a team that’s lost 10 straight.

The Suns finally spread the floor, knocked down threes and cracked the century mark after failing to do so for four straight games. But as Steve Nash said, “We’ve got to prove it every day.”

Tonight the Suns have to prove it against a struggling, but capable Denver team. The Nuggets are currently mired in a three-game losing streak amid all of the Carmelo trade rumors, with two of those losses came to the Clippers and the Kings.

Anthony scored only eight points on 3-for-11 shooting in their last game against New Orleans, while Chauncey Billups — who is also involved in the deal — shot 2-for-12. The Nuggets are clearly struggling, but even though the Suns gained a small victory with a win over the Cavs, Phoenix is still searching for answers.

“Frustration’s been mounting for about three months. It’s hard. This is very difficult,” Nash said after the Cavs game. “Just trying to fight through it and stay positive every day is a challenge. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and gain your perspective and when you get back out there the fire burns and the frustration’s there.”

The Suns will have to overcome that frustration without 38-year-old Grant Hill, who is out with a mildly sprained knee, according to The Arizona Republic. Josh Childress, who’s been in and out of the rotation, will start alongside Nash, Carter, Channing Frye and Robin Lopez.

Beating the lowly Cavs doesn’t prove that the Suns have fixed all of their issues, but a win against a sputtering Nuggets team would give Phoenix some confidence to build on.

“Confidence is just so crucial in these kind of situations and you just have to get back to the part where the guys share a little bit of success so the guys can recapture that,” Gentry said. “I think for the most part our guys are real confident, but I think you need something tangible to show for it, too.”

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