Denver Nuggets 116, Phoenix Suns 97 — Turned over

PHOENIX — Before every game Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry fills the locker room whiteboard with a few offensive keys to the game and defensive keys to the game.

They’re often times general and cliche, but with the Denver Nuggets in town the Suns knew exactly what they needed to do on both ends of the floor to stretch their home win streak over Denver to 13 games.

The offensive keys read “Limit turnovers,” and “Be ready for switches,” while defensively Gentry thought the Suns needed to “Get back in transition,” and allow “No (points in the) paint.”

Although Gentry and the Suns had what seemed to be the blueprint for success, they failed to hold true to any of those keys to the game and were dominated 116-97 by Ty Lawson and company.

“The things that we said we had to avoid doing, we didn’t do a very good job of tonight,” Gentry said. “If you look at the points in the paint, which is 66, and if you look at the turnovers on points, 32, I mean that’s almost 100 of their points. You have no chance to beat this team if you have those kind of stats against them.”

And because of their inability to execute in those areas, the Suns had no chance and the Nuggets led for all 48 minutes.

Denver trapped hard off double teams and used its length and quickness to bother the Suns. That combined with Phoenix’s mental errors and Steve Nash’s groin injury resulted in 20 turnovers, which Denver turned into 32 points.

Wether it was Hakim Warrick’s back-to-back errant passes in the final six seconds of the half that turned a six-point Nuggets lead into a 10-point lead, or Nash’s six turnovers in 27 minutes, the Suns never gained any traction offensively and committed “very, very stupid turnovers,” according to Marcin Gortat.

“We made stupid turnovers. If we throw an outlet pass and they steal it twice, it’s impossible. You can’t win the game like that in the NBA,” said Gortat, who finished with 14 points, 18 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. “We had no energy today, no focus and that’s how we lose the game. We hesitated in many situations and that’s how you’re getting your ass kicked.”

Despite yielding 66.6 percent shooting in the first quarter, the Suns only trailed 30-25 after one and got within two with 7:24 left in the first half. But the Suns unraveled to close out the second quarter, committing seven turnovers in the final seven minutes — three of which came from Warrick.

Over the course of the first 24 minutes the Suns spotted Denver 24 points off of turnovers (one point per minute).

“They just feast off your turnovers,” Gentry said of the Nuggets.

The feast continued in the third quarter as the Suns turned the ball over four more times, leading to eight more Denver points. The Nuggets blew open the game thanks to Phoenix’s turnover trend, along with the Suns’ 7-for-22 shooting in the third quarter.

Phoenix did make a lot of questionable decisions that ultimately led to the turnover discrepancy and Denver’s 33 fastbreak points, but Lawson (four steals) and Raymond Felton (two steals) did a great job wreaking havoc.

“They have quick guys who are in the passing lanes constantly and when they gamble correctly, they’re tough to beat,” said Vince Carter, who followed up his 32-point game with a 2-for-11, six-point performance.

The constant turnovers were clearly Phoenix’s enemy No. 1, but the Suns’ interior defense was a close second. With Channing Frye still nursing a sore shoulder, the Suns’ thin front line was exposed as a result of their inability to stop penetration.

Lawson got into the paint at will and Denver racked up 40 points in the paint in the first half alone. The Nuggets, who average 43.6 points in the paint per game, finished the game with a season-high 66 points in the paint.

Nene was the main beneficiary of Phoenix’s non-existent defense as he scored 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting in only 26 minutes. Lawson blew by Nash, who was sent to the locker room in the third quarter because of a recurring groin injury, at will and the Suns had no answer.

“We didn’t do a very good job of containing their dribble penetration,” Gentry said. “Once they got inside they just picked us apart with layup after dunk after layup.”

The Nuggets attempted only four shots outside of 10 feet in the first quarter, and 24 of their 30 points came inside the painted area. It was much of the same for the second quarter and the remainder of the game, as the Suns failed to live up to their “No paint” key to the game.

So all in all, the Suns couldn’t “Limit turnovers,” they weren’t “ready for switches,” and defensively they didn’t “Get back in transition” or allow “No (points in the) paint.”

Needless to say, Phoenix was dominated in nearly every facet of the game, especially the elements they put the most emphasis on. With the loss the Suns now move 1.5 games back of Memphis for the No. 8 spot in the West, and it doesn’t help that Dwight Howard and the Magic will invade US Airways Center on Sunday.

“As of right now, we’re not happy with the performance because we’re playing for so much,” Carter said. “We’ve just got to bounce back. Go back to the drawing board and get this one back.”

Nash’s health

Nash looked as injured as he has all season on Thursday night. He had no lateral quickness and was a shell of his former self both offensively and defensively (if that’s possible). He wasn’t available to the media as he left the arena after Gentry sent him to the locker room in the third quarter.

“Steve is playing hurt right now. It’s not easy for Steve right now and every night he’s playing against a guy who is at least 10 years younger than him,” Gortat said of Nash. “We’ve got to help Steve.”

Added Gentry, “He’s been hurt. I just didn’t think it was very wise to keep him in the game and have him playing so I sent him to the locker room.”

Tags: Steve Nash

  • Phil

    Can I be the first to say how badly VC sucked last night :-)

    On a more serious note – what is the prognosis for Nash? Would rest help? If it would, I would favour sitting him for a few games as we aren’t going to make the playoffs anyway with Nash playing at 50% of his normal capacity. We would have to hope we could pull out of a couple of wins in his absence then go all out in the final stretch

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  • Jason

    I didn’t catch the game tonight, glad I missed it. Nash should sit and we should start Brooks. Let’s see what he can do to find out if he’s going to be with us next year. I can’t believe we traded Dragic for a guy that probably won’t be here next year.

    Oh, and bench Vince. Please. Pretty please. I don’t care if he busts out for 20 here, 30 there. 2 good games in 10 does not a starter make. I’d rather sink or swim with Dudley (or even Pietrus).

  • B. Cray Z.

    Wish I could afford to go to all of the games.

    Feel guilty I could not help enerrgize them for this game.

    What a difference from the other Nuggets home game, even on a back end of a back to back!

    Will be back with my son Jacob on Sunday to give our Suns much energy & love for the Magic game.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    So the Suns looked old and tired on this night. I suppose it’s only one game but seriou…..


    Yeah – so people were talking about making Vince the focal point. Others were talking about his glory days in New Jersey and Toronto and North Carolina and primary school and the pre-birth league he was in.

    Two makes out of.. Eleven attempts. Yeah.

    Half-Man / Half-a-Season at this point.

    Want to know how many of those eleven attempts were anywhere near the rim? Yeah, I know you don’t want the answer because you already know it.

    No, I’m not going to argue with anybody who comes in here today defending Vince Carter. If you are such a person, this is for you:


    Oh and yeah Nash is hurting and has been hurting all year, so you trade away the only other real [battle tested] point guard we have? Yep, real smart front office types. Real smart.

  • Petshop

    I think its better if we missed the playoffs this year at least we get a lottery pick and we don’t have to give it away to Houston. But I think we have a huge possibility to get the eight spot its only Memphis and Utah is out of the race. Sitting Nash would help, yes we could lose some games but when hes back we can regain them and it could also help Brooks gain some confidence.

  • Steve

    Continuing my thought from the last massive comment string, there were plenty of boo birds in the arena last night for Warrick after his two MORONIC passes that took us from having momentum and being within six (possibly three if we nailed a three on the last possession) to being down ten with no hope of turning the night around. And deservedly so. Suns fans SHOULD boo something like that from their own guy. There is absolutely no excuse for something like that. It is not wrong to boo your own guys when they do something atrocious.

    Btw, someone should have put Kosta Koufas back on his ass for cherry-picking with a 17-point lead. See if he can handle Siler landing on top of him. Oh, that made me mad!

  • Steve

    Funny how no one is coming out swinging on VC’s behalf or telling me I’m not a fan because I get pissed when Hakim Warrick decides it’s more fun to pass to the other team.

    Are the “real” fans not that interested in the games where we get smoked?

  • Keir

    Ok I’ll come out swinging for Vince.

    You guys are a bit creepy – you are like Vince stalkers. Everything you can you blame on Vince you do are so obsessed with hating on Vince you have no balence – you just rant, rant, rant.

    You are like a reverse version of Kobe lovers who post endless thread about how awesome he is.

    Savage loss – really hurts. Seeing as I don’t have the handy cushion to punch (“its all Vince’s fault”) I stuck my head in the and for a couple of days and felt shit about it. That is the trouble with not having a scapegoat – its not so easy to deflect the pain of a bad loss.

  • Steve

    I wish I was a real fan like you. Maybe some day.

    For now, I’m just stuck with all of this basketball knowledge in my head. Knowing Vince Carter sucks just isn’t making me happy any more though. All I dream of at night is being a real fan, so I can accept Vince Carter as one of the great Suns of all time, loyal to this franchise beyond degree with an unquestioned will to win and compete.

    Damn you, numbers! Why do you have to prevent me from loving Vince?! Why must you curse me for every moment of my existence, reason and logic?!

    Grow up and stop pretending you’re a “bigger fan” than the rest of us. You’re not. For some strange reason you think it’s honorable to express undying love for a man who will play 60 games in your team’s uniform while costing us around $20M for $3M worth of production. If I thought Vince Carter cared one tiny bit about the Suns, I would get off his case. I just don’t get the feeling that he cares. When do you hear Vince saying, “I didn’t come out and play well, and I need to play well for this team to win.” Or really, when do you ever hear him say anything about working hard to get better as a player and develop better chemistry with the team? He goes through the motions occasionally when he is spoon-fed the questions, but he doesn’t go out of his way to let us know he’s pissed that he’s sucking it up on the court. And that pisses me off. If he doesn’t care about the Suns, then I don’t care about him, especially if he sucks. End of story.