Denver Nuggets 109, Phoenix Suns 92 — Rocky Mountain cold


Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat and the rest of the Suns had no shot in this one without resting captains Steve Nash and Grant Hill. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat and the rest of the Suns had no shot in this one without resting captains Steve Nash and Grant Hill. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

In deciding to rest Steve Nash and Grant Hill, head coach Alvin Gentry decided to pick his battles. This one, just maybe, he thought the Phoenix Suns could get away with and for decent enough reasons.

The Suns (12-17) found themselves in the paint quite a bit against the Denver Nuggets (17-12). With Nash and Hill sitting out the second game of a back-to-back-to-back, and the Nuggets without the frontline of Danilo Gallinari, Nene and Timofey Mozgov, no doubt that good things could happen for the Suns, even if they were missing two starters.

Not so much.

The opportunities to win the inside battle were there — the Suns just couldn’t get the shots to fall.

Denver took advantage of the Suns’ atrocious 33.3 percent shooting night and 21 turnovers, cruising to a 109-92 victory in the Pepsi Center on Tuesday.

The Nuggets scored the first 10 points of the game and led by as many as 16 in the first half, and though Phoenix finally brought it even at 62 early in the third quarter behind a surge from Michael Redd, who had 20 points by the end of the night, any hope for a Suns road win was quickly extinguished.

Trading baskets after the poor start and through the second quarter, Phoenix’s one run to tie the game was short-lived. Denver finished the last 8:47 of the third on a 24-8 run and never looked back as Arron Afflalo’s 20 points and Ty Lawson’s 17 led the way for the Nuggets.

Phoenix did its job in controlling the boards, earning 18 offensive rebounds to the Nuggets’ 10, but there were some chilling numbers: Through three quarters, when the Nuggets led 86-70, the Suns shot 34.6 percent to Denver’s 56.1 percent, and that was due to ineffectiveness in the paint.

Chris Andersen, who has been hard-pressed to get off the bench in recent games, was a large reason for the suffocating defense at the rim for the Nuggets, scoring 16 and blocking six shots on the night. He, center Kosta Koufos, who also had five steals, and rookie Kenneth Faried combined for 10 blocks.

Centers Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez combined for 4-for-20 shooting as Denver cleverly packed deep into the paint, giving the Phoenix centers out-of-rhythm shots from 10-to-15 feet out, most of which they missed.

How many shots the Denver big men altered perhaps could be reflected in the following numbers: Denver scored 54 points in the paint to the Suns’ 24, and both teams took 48 attempts in the paint for the game. The difference? The Suns connected on only 12 of those compared to the Nuggets’ 27.

Equally as hurtful for Phoenix were the turnovers.

The Suns finished with 16 giveaways after three quarters to the Nuggets’ 15, but Denver used its speed to score 24 points off the mishaps to the Suns’ 11, many of which came off of fastbreak opportunities.

The few positives for Phoenix were Redd and rookie Markieff Morris’ night of 21 points (a career hight), six rebounds, four steals and two blocks.

Without Nash, the starting unit struggled with replacement Ronnie Price, who had six assists but five turnovers. Jared Dudley scored only six in 27 minutes and Gortat struggled to finish in the paint, closing the game with 10 points and 14 rebounds. At -12 and -17 in +/-, respectively, Dudley and Gortat had the worst +/- numbers for the Suns.

And with rotation spots opened up thanks to the veterans sitting out, nobody really took advantage. Shannon Brown, who hadn’t played since the Feb. 4 game against Charlotte, showed poor discipline and timing, shooting 2-of-11 from the floor and had two turnovers in almost 23 minutes. Hakim Warrick finally returned to the floor, but he turned it over twice in just 3:34 of court time.

Outside of Morris’ solid 8-for-16 shooting, the Phoenix bench shot a dismal 6-for-32, or 18.8 percent, from the field.

Here’s the optimist’s outlook.

Missing Nash meant missing an offensive rhythm, and in that sense, seemingly open looks were out of the timing of the offense and ended up off-target. Atlanta is on deck tomorrow night in Phoenix, and though there’s little turnaround time, the Suns will have two fresh bodies return to their proper roles in the starting lineup.

  • Scott

    Suns clearly lack leadership with those two sitting out.

    I still recommend making Dudley and Frye 2nd unit captains.

  • shawn

    Unfortunately I watched this game and if this is what’s is like without Nash and hill then why the hell do suns fans want Nash traded. Everyone should be made available for a trade except Nash,Hill, and Gortat. Although I realized while watching this gortat is not as far along as I thought and his passing is awful. This team is full of misfits. Price is good on defense but not so great offensively. Telfair can score but not so great defensively. Its the same with warrick and childress. I love Dudley but he is way to hot/cold to be starting. Redd can ball and needs to be starting. Brown played behind Kobe so all he knows is keep shooting til you get it right. I love Alvin gentry and his intensity. Oh and Eddie Johnson should be doing the commentary every game he keeps me smiling no matter how bad my suns are playing.

  • shazam

    real simple shawn..with nash and hill we are better but not good enough to make a wave in the play offs or even get to the play offs….with nash and hill we win just enough games to get a lousy draft pick..if we trade them we may get a crappy draft pick or something else crappy but at least we will look like we did tonight and lose enough games to get good draft picks for awhile..so we can rebuild ….this is a boring tteam with or with out nash and hill..get some new blood to root for

  • shazam

    wanting to blow this team up last year would be fickle..this year its the sane thing to do

  • BoomShakaLuka

    That Marcin Gortat photo sums up the season perfectly.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    Well, predictably defeated!
    Without Hill!
    But above all without Nash!
    I’m happy for Markieff is growing really well!
    Morris brings the freshness and the explosiveness of the young!
    What is missing from a team of veterans!
    I always said that this year’s leadership is faced with a difficult choice:
    1) continue to play with these guys knowing it will be difficult to still reach the play-offs;
    2) try to change something getting something good from a major release (Nash-Lin NY but I do not accept)
    3) sank in the standings and have a good pick in the draft;
    4) give the best to get another good pick in the draft (because obviously it will sink in the standings and also our choice to become an excellent draft);
    What is certain is that the Suns are a team to rebuild: we are aware of all and all we ever talked about in our comments on this site!
    What remains is to understand what is the best way to do it!
    Better to throw away a season like this one in which hardly reach the play-offs and accelerate the process of reconstruction that remain suspended in a dream (the playoffs) difficult to achieve!
    We also put the case to reach the playoffs, something the team will bring them good?
    A few extra ticket sales (and surely only the first round)?
    There are tough choices, the current roster can be saved in a “team of the future”, only Markieff Morris, Dudley, Frye and Marcin Gortat (but only Markieff and Marcin could aim for a place to hold a quintet! Frye and Dudley could reserves and be good enough!).
    The others are all to “throw” Brown and Lopez are a disappointment, J. Chill is low, Warrick did not make the quantum leap that was expected and is only good for a spectacular dunk, Price and Telfair combined do not make a good play-maker.
    I’m very sorry but for me the situation is really difficult and if you make a decision this team will remain forever in limbo and there will be no hope of seeing a winning team soon!
    Always,
    Go Suns!

  • https://twitter.com/#!/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    @ shawn, you’re looking at it through narrow eyes.

    Steve Nash NEEDS to be traded. Plain and simple.

    Why do people want Nash traded? You point to this game as a reason why he should not be traded but it is the perfect illustration as to why he should be traded.

    The Steve Nash driven offense only works because of Nash and the players on the court only function because of him. I’ll say it again.

    THIS IS A BAD BAD BAD THING!

    Without Nash on the roster, the team can be constructed to be balanced. It can be a team with multiple options where multiple players can step up in many situations a lot like Denver did against Phoenix. It’s not like Denver had all of it’s studs either, but they’re far more balanced so they have far more options that can bring success.

    Another example of this is the whole “Denver packed the paint making life difficult for Gortat” thing.

    IF IT WEREN’T JUST THE PICK AND ROLL + SPACING STEVE NASH OFFENSE. The team would already know how to adjust and make teams pay for clogging the paint. Instead they get sucked into it because THEY DON’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY ANY OTHER WAY. THEY ARE NOT COACHED IN ANY OTHER WAY. SNOW, ladies and gentlemen.

    At least when Dragic was leading his stable bench mob, he attacked and the team had more options which was why that bench group would often correct the stagnant offense of the starters or extend slim leads. That group was far more balanced and could do more things OUTSIDE OF THE SET NASH-DRIVEN offense.

    This game was not, in anyway, a display that gives cause for keeping Nash. It was everything needed to show that he must go.

    It is not because he isn’t great, because he is. It is because it doesn’t work anymore in the valley.

  • http://randomdanw.wordpress.com Dan

    I don’t know why I check this site anymore.

    Do you guys do anything besides game previews and post game story?

  • steve

    Apparently you don’t check very often, Dan. There’s a lot more to the site than that. On the second page only two articles are either previews or post game. Why bother complaining when you have no idea what you’re talking about?

  • Scott

    The Suns are not alone; other teams have problems. Raja Bell was overheard at the last Jazz game saying this to a teammate, as their team got pounded by the Thunder:

    “We consistently do dumb [crap],” Bell said. “We can’t even help it.”

    I feel your pain, Raja. Or something close to it.

    Hopefully, after March 1, the Suns will be able to swing a good trade (not a stupid one) for a quality backup PG.

    Also, from Nash …

    “We’re a pick-and-roll team. We’re a jump-shooting team. We don’t have much of a post-up game. Our defense has been pretty good. We just can’t rebound, and it’s killing us.”

  • shawnt

    @rich duh the offense only works because of Nash that’s the point of building around your best player so what other obvious points would you like to make. Teams trade their problems for potential answers. But you want the suns to trade their answer for more problems.

  • shazam

    @ shawn when the answer is 38 years old and you cant find trades to augment his special needs then its not an answer..scratch a liitle deeper than fan boy nash love grass hopper and all will be revealed.

  • steve

    Nash isn’t an answer in himself at this point in his career. Nash is an all-star, one of the greatest PGs to ever play the game, and still one of the top 5 PGs in the league today. However, good guards are a dime a dozen in the NBA right now. Having a great PG isn’t that great of a luxury. The Suns need an answer at the weakest position in the NBA, the 2. And they need Gortat to keep improving and gain the ability to go into complete beast mode and take over a game. The NBA is decently deep in the SF department, and we could also use a ton of help there. The NBA is riddled with 1′s and 4′s right now. We need to fill in the gaps, and getting rid of Nash might be able to help.

  • Tony

    Rich,

    Regardless of Nash, the Suns offense would suck no matter what playing style they implemented. You’re going to tell us that an offense featuring Price/Telfair, Dudley/Brown, Hill/Childress, Frye/Morris, and Gortat/Lopez would be anymore effective than it is with a different offensive gameplan?? Assuming you would prefer a more traditional inside out offense, none of the perimeter players are good enough shots to make this style of offense effective. The more Gortat improves in his post game, the more we’ll see help defense by the opposing perimeter players, which will negate Gortat’s effectiveness in the post because the Suns perimeter players will be left open since they aren’t reliable shooters.

    It’s just nonsense to think a different offensive gameplan would have any appreciable effect with this group of players, who are very limited talent wise.

    Making matters worse is the lack of athleticism on the perimeter that would help allieviate the lack of shooting production on this team. Last night’s game was a prime example. Dudley had an easy fast break by himself, but he’s so slow that Affalo, at the other end of the court, was able to run down Dudley and swipe the ball from him before he could score. This Suns team just doesn’t have the talent or athleticism to be effective offensively on a consistent basis.

  • Scott

    While I agree that Dudley is not athletic enough to beat out a true starting caliber NBA SG, determined players can come from behind on fast breaks even on athletic players, as shown in the past by LeBron blocking a Jason Richardson fast break.

    What Dudley could have done, if he hadn’t been under a bit of brain fog (like the rest of the Suns), is he could have done a herky-jerky lay-up move that might have drawn the foul.

  • shawn

    @shazam so Nash has special needs and I’m either a fan boy or a grasshopper is all I got from that so umm I guess you win cuz I’m done

  • Zak

    Lets break down the problems with the Suns.

    1. Only 3-4 real NBA caliber starters – Nash, Hill, Gortat and Redd. Two of them, Nash and Hill, are in the twilight of their careers and Redd is still attempting to come back from multiple injuries. Gortat is the only one without any real question marks.

    2. The front office has made many “questionable” moves in the past two-three years. Yes they brought in Gortat, Redd and Morris but they also brought in Turkoglu, Vince Carter and everyone else not named Nash, Hill, Dudley, Frye and Lopez. Overall I give them a D+ grade at best.

    3. Sarver. For some or you I know that I need not explain anything regarding Sarver but I will anyway. Lots of people hate him… and NOBODY loves him. He’s not the worst owner in the NBA but he’s in the running. Some people claim that it’s because he’s too cheap or that he only cares about putting fans in the stands (which may be why he hasn’t traded Nash away and started to rebuild the team for the future). IMO he’s not “THE” problem but he is a big part of it.

    Add everything together and you’ve got the Suns. When everything is clicking, they can beat any team in the NBA on any given night. But the team is made up of players that don’t “click” more often than they do.

    Holding Nash and Hill out made sense because of their age, the fatigue factor in a back-to-back-to-back series and the injuries to Denver players that were also absent from the game.

    But it didn’t work. The Suns just aren’t good enough to win games with both Nash and Hill out.

    Or aren’t determined or confident enough. Look at New York. With both Melo and STAT out they won 5 games they should have lost, not because Lin is so great but because the TEAM started to believe they could win. Lin has that attitude. He led by example and brought wins to a team that was, at the time, starting a bunch of role players (except for Chandler). The Suns just don’t seem to have that attitude anymore. From what I’ve seen of them on the court, they don’t seem to be giving their best all of the time. Maybe it’s because they just don’t believe anymore.

    The team needs more heart, a better, more intelligent FO and an owner more interested in winning rather than just filling seats at the home games.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/True_Rys Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    “Rich,

    Regardless of Nash, the Suns offense would suck no matter what playing style they implemented. You’re going to tell us that an offense featuring Price/Telfair, Dudley/Brown, Hill/Childress, Frye/Morris, and Gortat/Lopez would be anymore effective than it is with a different offensive gameplan??”

    No. That is not what I’m saying. How is what I’ve been saying so hard to understand? THIS is what I’m saying.

    With Steve Nash NO LONGER A MEMBER OF THE PHOENIX SUNS ORGANIZATION….

    1) The front office can’t hide behind / make attempts in trying to get players that fit in a Nash-driven offense. What they would do without Nash would be WORLDS APART from what they do with Nash. That leads us to:

    2) The current roster would be obliterated; subpar players would not be brought in in hopes that they could run the same offense with the second unit.

    3) Gentry, (if retained), could get back to his wizardry from the WCF team where he would easily mix and match players to attack in different ways. Remember, there were so many games where he would not even go back to Nash / STAT / J Rich because the team was functioning so well.

    I joined the ranks of people calling for his head, and really he has no choice in riding it out with Nash as there are no other ballers on the team outside of Gortat and JMZ with Dudley being a good “piece” and not a superstar.

    You take Nash off of the team, you instantly have far more avenues you can try moving forward. The team doesn’t have to be so player specific. The team doesn’t have to be so one dimensional. The team can be A TEAM and not totally controlled by one guy.

    Also, somebody mentioned something about building around your best player.
    GET IT RIGHT! That is NOT WHAT THE PHOENIX SUNS ARE DOING!

    They are not building around Nash, They are trying to find players that suit what Steve Nash needs in order to run his offense.

    IT IS NOT THE SAME THING.

  • shazam

    @ tony your quote —> “It’s just nonsense to think a different offensive gameplan would have any appreciable effect with this group of players, who are very limited talent wise.”….there is nothing wrong with this observation but i dont think its the exact point rich is trying to make…i could be wrong but i think rich believes that by getting rid of nash we can start to get more conventional style players instead of just spot ups who cant re-bound waiting for a nash pass…in short i dont think rich believes changing the offense today will help the team today…what he means is that changing the offense today enables us to play better in the future…rich do i have this right?