Phoenix Suns 110, Denver Nuggets 100 -- Nightmare matchup no longer


PHOENIX — As the Phoenix Suns grew older the past two seasons, the lightning quick Denver Nuggets turned into a nightmare matchup for the team.

As such the Suns entered tonight’s contest against Denver having lost six in a row to the Nuggets by a combined 15.3 points per game dating back to November of 2010. The matchup was bad enough that the Suns were even blown out twice in the preseason last year.

However, with a younger and more athletic team this time around, these new-look Suns fought back from another early double-digit deficit to down the streaking Nuggets, 110-100, to win their third game in four tries.

“It’s a good win,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “We’ve obviously struggled with that team over the past couple of years, so to be able to get a win against them and be able to get a win at home was really important. I thought we played well. We had a lot of guys that stepped up and I thought did some good things.”

The Suns’ improvement against Denver starts defensively at the point guard spot, where Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair did a much better job containing Ty Lawson than Steve Nash ever did.

Lawson followed up a nice eight-point, six-assist first half with just four and two in 16:32 of a second half that the Suns won by 13 points.

After picking up two first-quarter fouls, Gentry went with Telfair the rest of the first half against Lawson (perhaps to prevent Dragic from picking up a third against the speedy guard) before waiting to re-insert Telfair into the lineup when Lawson entered with 7:31 remaining.

“It’s not only point guards, big guys did a great job,” Dragic said. “Every time he came out on a pick-and-roll the big guys were up, and he couldn’t penetrate or shoot the ball then. That’s a team defense.”

The next key was rebounding. A game after being manhandled on the glass by a margin of 15 caroms Saturday in Utah, the Suns stayed within three against the league’s No. 2 rebounding team, while yielding a mere nine offensive boards.

Kenneth Faried grabbed 11 rebounds, including four offensive, but the Suns largely neutralized Denver’s big advantage.

Finally, the Suns won despite being out shot 53.9 percent to 45.7 percent because they committed a season-low six turnovers (to Denver’s 15). Gentry always talks about how devastating live ball turnovers can be against a team like Denver, and the Suns just never let the Nuggets get out into transition off steals as they had only two. Three of the Suns’ turnovers and both steals came in the first quarter, and they coughed it up just once in the second half.

“We were putting bodies on their big guys and didn’t just look around,” Dragic said. “We tried to seal those big guys and the small guys, and we knew if we could control that and fast-break points that we were going to be in this game.”

That the Suns were despite another awful start. You almost wonder if the team needs to push forward the starts of home games by a half hour because their first quarters have been so bad in comparison to the rest of the game.

The Nuggets jumped out to a quick 16-6 lead in this one midway through the first before the Suns immediately stormed back with a 12-2 spurt to bring things back to even. Phoenix has now trailed by double digits in every game except the Charlotte win.

“I’m still trying to figure it out myself,” said Shannon Brown. “It’s just one of those things we have to fix. I can’t really pinpoint it, we’ve just got to fix it.”

Despite not playing the second quarter and only logging 31:26 overall, Dragic paced a balanced scoring effort with a team-high 21 points and seven assists that included a stellar 4-for-5 effort from distance. Overall seven Suns scored at least 12 points as Gentry shortened his bench in this one with an eight-man rotation plus eight minutes of P.J. Tucker with Jermaine O’Neal inactive once again.

The shortened rotation was aided greatly by Markieff Morris’ best game of the season by far. Morris entered the night averaged 6.1 and 4.1 on 30.5 percent shooting. He exited it by filling the box score with 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting to go with six boards, five assists and three steals while helping the Suns outscore the Nuggets by 24 points in his 25 minutes.

Perhaps it was the presence of Faried, a power forward drafted after Morris who has thus far been a much better pick, but whatever the reason the Suns finally got a lottery pick performance out of last year’s No. 13 pick.

“He came out aggressive, wasn’t really thinking too much,” Brown said. “I think he was just playing basketball. He let the game come to him.”

If the Suns get this Morris on a more consistent basis and if Brown can continue to scorch the nets as he did with another 19 points tonight (although on 16 shots), then perhaps the Suns’ bench can morph into a halfway decent unit.

The victory improved the Suns to 4-4, and considering the fact that the Nuggets entered winners of four straight, this must be considered the Suns’ best victory of the young season.

Phoenix will be tested plenty more in the coming week as the schedule stiffens with games against the Bulls, Lakers and Heat, but for tonight the Suns were pleased to take down a good team that has had their number of late.

“It’s always good to get off the schneid when a team is beating you consistently, just come out and let them know they can’t continue to beat up on us like that,” Brown said.

And 1

  • Brown on his role on the team:I told Coach I’d do whatever he asks me to do. I do want to start, but if he needs me to come off the bench, whatever he needs me to do, I’m a team player. I’m not going to gripe about that or none of that stuff, I’m going to do whatever it takes to help the team win.”
  • The Suns have outscored the opposition 116-86 in their last two home second halves. … The Suns put seven players in double figures tonight for the first time all season. They did it four times all of last year. … Dragic is averaging 19.8 points, 7.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game at home. … The Suns are 3-0 when reaching the century mark. … Phoenix knocked down 7-of-12 shots from behind the arc. … Michael Beasley suffered through a rough 2-for-9 first quarter, but hit 5-of-6 shots thereafter. “I just wanted to be aggressive,” Beasley said.

Tags: Goran Dragic Markieff Morris

  • TucsonSunsFan

    My biggest surprise so far of this season has been Wes Johnson not playing any kind of role in the Suns rotation. Has he been terrible in practices or has he fallen out of favor with Coach Gentry?

  • JuiceySun

    I’m asking the same. He has struggled with the small minutes he has got and pj has been pretty impressive but I feel there’s been times where we could have turned to him.

  • Dan Smith

    Yeah, I’d like to know the same…I heard Wes was doing good in camp and his first three preseason games he did WELL. But the last 3 or 4 he struggled…so what’s the deal? Last I heard the Suns wanted to possibly resign him this offseason, then why isn’t he worthy of playing at least a few minutes a game? I bet he’s wishing he stayed in Minny. I’m assuming he possibly got pissed they declined his option and then fell out of favour with management and/or coaching staff? Does anyone know?

  • Elviro (Italy)

    great victory against my compatriot Gallinari!
    yes, even I’m asking you to Wes …..
    Markieff great!

  • john

    I loved Steve Nash when he was in a Suns uni. He’s easily one of the top 3 shooters of all time (in my opinion, he’s second behind Reggie Miller), and he’s one of the top 5 PG’s of all time in my opinion as well.

    That said, is there anyone who wouldn’t rather have Goran Dragic RIGHT NOW? Goran is playing amazing ball right now. He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s pesky, he’s a scoring machine, he’s a playmaker… If his body can last an entire season, this year could be just as impressive for him as anything the greats like Kevin Johnson, Steve Nash, Gail Goodrich, etc., ever did in a Suns uni.

    As for the game, we’ve all said it, and I’ll say it again: The Suns NEED to stop digging themselves into holes. Great win. It’s good to be .500, but there is still a ton of room for this team to grow and improve.

  • john

    Also, regarding the Wes Johnson benching, this might mean something:

    His PER this season is -3.1 (career 9.2)
    His WS48 is -0.233 (career 0.024)
    His eFG% and TS% are both below 50% for his career
    His ORtg this year is 55 (career 98)
    His DRtg this year is 112 (career 110)

    I could keep throwing out numbers, but they’ll all point to the same thing. Wesley Johnson is not a very good player in the NBA, for whatever reason. Not everyone who has talent is able to make the transition, and I think he’s just one of those guys who might be playing the rest of his career overseas.

  • http://ValleyoftheSuns.com Troy

    Wes deserves a shot, i mean he did hit his first shot as a sun. Throw the guy in there, i believe the only reason he hasnt got much PT is because the team is always playing catch up. That said, throw em in there hes long athletic had a great camp, there are minutes to be played and for whatever reason Gentry has been going 10 – 11 deep and thats that. Same for Marshall, Bassy playing great therefore there are no minutes for the rook.

  • http://ValleyoftheSuns.com Troy

    Does anyone know where I can go to complain about the horrible looking SUNS court. It looks horrible…am I the only one who feels this way. The black all around it, we dont even have black uni’s we barely have black in the uni’s! I love the letters used for Phoenix under the rim, but again where did that come from? Why not use actual Phoenix font that is on our uni’s….I dont know I just hate it, im starting to dislike watching home games just because I hate the court so much.

  • john

    @Troy – I’m with you on the court issue. It’s hideous. Absolutely hideous.

    I can’t stand the “SUNS” at halfcourt, the black OB, the new lanes…. I can’t stand any of it. It’s the ugliest court in the NBA by far.

    I’m a total proponent of the Suns going back to the classic unis. They have a rich history, and they have completely abandoned it for this “modern,” garbage look.

  • http://slapdoghoops.blogspot.com Slap Dog Hoops

    I knew the Suns would start heating up sooner than later. They have a very underrated yet talented team. now they are 4-4 to start the season. Not bad if I do say so myself.

  • Scott

    Better play might be coming the Suns’ way as they start thinking less about what they’re doing and just do it. One could argue that several Suns have suffered from over-thinking their game, like Dudley, Beasley, and – apparently – Morris. This naturally happens when there’s a lot of new dynamics to process, as has been the case with the Suns this season.

    If Dudley, Beasley, and Morris are starting to get their roles down to where they can just react, that is great news.

    As for the slow starts to games, I suspect that is a similar situation. The Suns are probably starting cold, thinking about what they need to do instead of just doing it. As EJ has said numerous times over the years, what the Suns probably need to do is play well at the ends of games with the idea of carrying it over into the next game with a solid start.

    As for Johnson, I suspect that once the team gets their play improved to the point where they no longer need Tucker’s energy to win, they’ll start bringing Johnson in and integrating him into the mix. If he can play at all, Johnson should have a higher ceiling than Tucker.

  • http://none Mikel

    The court does Not match our white w/ purple uniforms the suns look a little out of place on that court! I was hoping we would go back to putting the big sun logo we used to have years ago!!! If we were going to go black w/ orange we should have changed our unis I guess, either way Im Not a Fan of big SUNS in middle of our court our big SUn logo should be there and not the one that says PHX the one w/ our big Sun. Make it happen people!!!!

  • http://none Mikel

    Oh and Wes Johnson needs to be given a chance to play. Dudley struggles and im thinking Gentry should give Wes a chance!!

  • Al

    @ Mikel Agree. I like the new jerseys, but hate the new logo of the arena. It’s too retro for me.

    Dragic is finally getting loose and more comfortable. I don’t think I can blame Dudley or Kieff for their early struggles. It seems that a lot of shooters in the NBA have started the season shooting poorly. I am glad Kieff had his first good game of the regular season. He needs to be used more like Channing Frye this season to open the floor so that Dragic can slash to the basket. Scola should be taken out early and inserted with the second unit more to help with the lack of offense. Shannon Brown is definitely playing better also. It may be his last chance at a multi year contract.
    Am gonna hate Friday. D’Antoni and Nash as LAKERS?!?! Are you kidding me? Wonder what trash Kobe will say about the Suns now. Seems like Stern always has a BIG plan to bring entertaining basketball to big markets by squeezing talent from smaller market teams.

  • silver

    WES JOHNSON

    The reason Wes Johnson hasn’t been doing well is because Telfair isn’t a good pure point guard. During preseason Wes+Telfair had Wes averaging 5pts. Wes+Marshall he was averaging 15pts. Marshall knows how to utilize his skills and hide his weaknesses. Telfair doesn’t. Marshall gets the ball to Wes perfectly so that it doesn’t disrupt his shooting motion and Wes can just spot up. (e.g. wide open and doesn’t have to dribble).

    On another note, I’m with you guys. The new court is ugly as hell. I like the unis but wouldn’t mind if we played in the old ones.