Denver Nuggets 108, Phoenix Suns 93 — Inside out

PHOENIX – The Suns own the worst three-point defense in the league. The Denver Nuggets didn’t do much with it.

It didn’t matter.

Corey Brewer scored 20 points, and outside of a Ty Lawson three-pointer in the final seconds, the Nuggets went 2-of-11 from long-range on Monday night in a 108-93 win against the Suns at U.S. Airways Center.

Outside of that perimeter production, the Nuggets won the game with a dominating interior scoring threat aided by their speed and athleticism. Denver outscored Phoenix 74-32 in the paint, Kosta Koufos scored a career-high 22 points while missing one of his 11 shots and Ty Lawson turned it on in the second half to pull away from the Suns.

“Everything they got was in transition,” said Wes Johnson, who led the Suns with 18 points. “Our turnovers led to that, and I don’t think we did a good enough job getting back. That’s one of their strengths. They got a lot of easy buckets to push up the lead, and we had to play catch-up from then on.”

Hunter said that he’d try to limit Luis Scola’s minutes at center to avoid strain to the slow-footed power forward. It didn’t help, then, that the starting matchup that put Scola on Koufos went poorly. The former Ohio State Buckeye scored the first 13 points for Denver, and the Nuggets attacked the heart of the Suns’ defense to outscore them 38-16 in the paint in the first half. Phoenix only trailed 53-50 at the half, and at that, shooting just 41.3 percent to Denver’s 51.2 percent.

Before the game, Denver coach George Karl said that the Suns “like to play tight in the paint. They give up a lot of threeballs because of it.”

He added that Lawson, who had scored in the 20s in 11 of his last 13 games, would have to read and react because of it. The size-challenged point guard only had five points at the half all while all of the Nuggets’ five three-point attempts failed to drop. In the second half, he made it a point to attack, especially in transition to keep the Suns decent interior defense from getting set.

“What he was doing is keeping our guard on his hip and keeping him behind him, and making our big make a decision,” Hunter said. “For the most part, he got the best of us doing that.”

Lawson finished with 19 points and six assists, outdueling Goran Dragic, who scored eight and had seven assists and four steals as he took what little the Nuggets gave him.

Heading to the fourth quarter, the Suns trailed 80-74 as Lawson attempted to assert himself in the open court.

But perhaps the biggest piece of Denver’s high-powered offense was Corey Brewer. He scored 20 points as the Nuggets’ only successful shooter. Phoenix held Danilo Gallinari to five points on 1-of-8 shooting and had somehow stayed in the game for the majority of the night despite shooting a good percentage lower than the Nuggets.

“They did a good job getting in transition,” said Jared Dudley, who played his third solid game in a row with 12 points off the bench. “We did a good job containing them from the outside, but we didn’t contain the paint well enough.”

By the end of the game, the Nuggets were still shooting the same percentage as they did in the first half, and Phoenix had not budged much at 41.7 percent. But it was Lawson’s 14 points and four assists in the second half that changed the tide – that attacking nature set the tone for smooth interior passing in transition.

“Seventy-four points in the paint,” Hunter said. “That sums up the entire game. They dominated us, driving the ball. Kosta Koufos, he missed one shot, and I don’t think they ran a play for him.

“They’re a good team,” he added. “I think we did a good job for the most part staying close, but you know, they sort of tightened the screws and pulled away from us. Good teams do that.”

Marshall doppelganger?

Andre Miller might be an obvious comparison to what Suns rookie point guard Kendall Marshall could become. One of the more underrated guards in the league for some time now, Miller doesn’t always fill the box score, but he’s a widely respected for his game management.

Marshall doesn’t take much offense to the comparison.

“We’re both not the most athletic people in the world,” Marshall said. “Honestly, I was looking forward to playing against him. It’s a player that I watched growing up, and I really respect his game. You could see some of the tricks of the trades he’s learned, and hopefully I can pick (them) up and use in my own game.”

Miller, along with Steve Nash, Jason Kidd and Jose Calderon are among the players who Marshall says he can learn the most from. Against the Nuggets on Monday, one notable play by Miller stuck out in Marshall’s mind of how the crafty veteran has made his style and established one in the NBA.

“In the first half, closest to that bench, he’s coming off a pick-and-roll and I’m trying to push him to our big man who’s sitting there waiting on him,” Marshall said. “All he did was — right before he curled off the screen — he’s dribbling the ball, he bumps me, takes one dribble and pulls up where I can’t contest it.”

Revisiting the 2011 NBA Draft

If there were a miss that Suns fans might be the most willing to complain about from the 2011 draft, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried would be the most notable one. The Suns’ two draft picks from 2011, Markieff and Marcus Morris, went 13th and 14th overall while the Morehead State product fell to No. 22.

It didn’t help then, that Faried had grabbed nine rebounds before Markieff, who he was mostly matched up against, grabbed his first board. The Morris twins combined for 20 points, six boards and four steals while Faried scored 10 to go with his nine rebounds.

Marcus Morris was second in scoring for Phoenix with 16 points.

Shannon flies

After a 10-game hiatus, Hunter allowed Shannon Brown to fly. The shooting guard promptly hit his first shot, an 18-footer straight on.

Said Hunter: “Just wanted to see if – he hadn’t played in a while – if he had it and if he could give us a boost.

The Manimal flies

  • Scott

    It’s nice to see Marshall starting to penetrate more, doing that drive around the paint thing that Nash (and now Dragic) does. He’s going to need a lot more time to get that move down to where he can exploit it, but at least the journey of 1000 miles has seen its first steps.

    Hopefully Marshall’s getting some one-on-one play in practices. He needs to develop offensive moves in addition to his 33% perimeter shot.

    As for the Suns taking Markieff instead of Faried … they also could have taken Vucevic. Vucevic’s got size, and his PER is not far behind Faried’s.

  • Scott

    The most recent draft scouting video from Schmitz is of Erick Green. If he’s available in the mid-to-late 2nd round for the Suns, he looks like he’d be a better choice for backup combo guard than Diante Garrett.

  • mileHighfan

    Ty > Dragic

  • mileHighfan

    Dragic seemed a lil road-rage-ish trying stay in front of Ty. Ty was in his head the whole game. he made a 3 in the end, so Dragic attempts one too…

    Once more Ty > Dragic

  • mileHighfan

    Its good to see Marshall out there. He needs to play more, let him play thru his mistakes, soon enough, he will look like a future hall of famer.

    What was flabbergasting was how Koufos, who has never had a career game, like ever, goes off with career highs.

  • a-game

    Another loss. Thats how it should be!! Keep it up Suns, the lottery is just a few short months away.

  • DBreezy

    The game was worth it just to hear EJ’s comments about how he couldn’t coach Cousins!

  • john


    Ty > Anyone not named Paul, Rose, Parker, Westbrook, or Rondo. I love watching that guy play.

    I finally got to go to a game in person last night for the first time in months, and that was a fun game to watch, despite the Suns falling apart at the end. That McGee dunk was amazing, and the Faried lob… it just made me wish the Suns had drafted him all the more.

    The Nuggets are the exact brand of basketball I love. High pace, team-oriented play. I wish they had the superstar talent to carry them past the big boys in the playoffs, but I don’t see that happening for them.

  • mileHighfan

    I agree John. I just about luv watching every player (minus George Karl and Koufos). They are very entertaining, but wont go far in the playoffs.

    I firmly believe its time for a coaching change. NY did it and now they are thriving (minus injuries) and Woodson seems to get the best out of JR, Melo (minus the ball hawking).

    I still have long-term hopes for Phx. WIth improved mgt & coaching, they can get better again. But then theres Sarver, the devil himself I know…

  • Forever is2long

    I finally saw Hadaddi play and admit I am impressed. Picking up him and Marcus Morris were solid acquisitions. Hadaddi can learn a lot from Jermaine O’Neal.

    Regarding Marshall and Andre Miller, I can see why there is a comparison due to the fact neither is very athletic. However I remember seeing Andre Miller play when he was the point guard for University of Utah under the late Rick Majerus. While Andre was an excellent distributor in giving timely dimes to his center Michael Doleac, he has always had mindset to score. I think that is what Marshall lacks which is why he spends so much time on the perimeter. I do not know if he can learn that but it is really painful for me to see him play. I guess they are growing pains.

    As for Markief, he will never be anything more than a backup forward. We need an athletic power forward in the worst way and the draft seems to void of that talent this summer. I said before I like Paeyne from Michigan State in the late 1st round if we cannot secure Noel with our pick but I am sure you guys have some other ideas so help me out here.

    I am beginning to like Wesley Johnson so much at the 2 spot I am leaning more and more to trying to draft Otto Porter from Georgetown or Noel from Kentucky with our own lottery pick. If we can secure a top 5 pick one of these two should be in reach, at least I am hoping.

    A loss but I saw some good things last night from the Suns.

  • hawki

    @ MileHighFan…..”I still have long term hopes for Phx.”

    Sammi….that’s REAL long term.

  • mileHighfan


    long-term is very vague. It could mean 2 yrs or 5. Or when the UN rockets kim-jung-un into orbit, or when we colonize the moon. I like vagueness, its good to play it safe.

    Or am I crushing all your hopes & dreams that they would be suddenly feared by next season?

  • Scott

    With the exception of Johnson, who seems like he could be a solid SF, and Dudley who can be a veteran off the bench at that spot, it seems to me the Suns have a lot of odds and ends at SF, and really not much talent at SG or PF (aside from Scola), either.

  • Forever is2long

    Lindsey Hunter actually has been playing Johnson at shooting guard quite a bit and has gone on record saying he thinks it is his best position. In fact he started Johnson at shooting guard last night with the Morris twins at the forward spots.

  • Scott

    @Forever -

    I realize Johnson has been playing at SG, and he’s been doing better than anyone else at that spot, especially on defense. He’s also been a standout among current Suns for spot-up shooting on the perimeter. However, IIRC, he’s not got the ability to slash to the hoop to draw a foul, nor is he all that good at other typical guard skills, like creating for himself and others.

    Johnson’s a lot like Marion. Offensively, his strengths lie in being able to respond when someone creates for him, as in the pass for a shot or lob. He can rebound and defend multiple positions.

    Regardless of what the Suns management says (like “Beasley can play at SG”), IMO Johnson is a wing player whose present strengths and weaknesses make him a natural 3 with ability to cover the 2, and his length and quickness make him better at covering the 2 than Dudley.

  • Scott

    BTW, regarding Johnson, his PER with Phoenix is 9.49 right now, which is less than the PER of 11 I believe he had in his years with Minnesota. His 3 pt shooting is just at 31% (slightly ahead of Markieff Morris), while Dudley’s is at 39% (same as Marcus Morris).

    Wes and Markieff need to boost their accuracy by about a third; I think that’s the main complaint with both of them.

  • hawki

    If the draft were today, the Suns would be tied with New Orleans for the 6th pick.
    Charlotte & Orlando have the top 2 spots virtually locked up…..Suns are in a battle with 6 other teams for pick 3 thru 9…..can’t see Noel or Porter lasting past pick 5….if that.

    My crystal ball keeps sending me pictures of Cody Zeller in a Suns uniform.

    @MileHighfan….Yes, the Suns will be feared next season….by Suns fans.

  • Scott

    After reviewing the stats a bit more, I’d clarify by saying that Wes needs to improve his consistency, as some games he’s very accurate and in other games he’s missing.

    Markieff, however, needs to get more accurate across the board.

    Marcus appears to be both accurate and consistent with his scoring, and his rebounding is just slightly less than that of Markieff. He’s the 2nd best SF for the Suns right now, after Dudley.

    If the Suns were looking to trim players from this roster, I’d cut Brown, Beasley, Garrett, Tucker, and Markieff, in that order, though at this time I think the Suns still need Garrett, Tucker, and Markieff.

    I’d re-sign Wes Johnson, but I’d be looking for a more limited deal with slightly less salary. I’d keep Tucker and Markieff if there was room on the roster, as they’re cheap, but I would find a replacement for Garrett, as a combo guard is what’s needed there and he’s really just a PG.

  • Forever is2long

    Hawk, I think Zeller’s stock is falling. I hope he does not become a Sun as it documented he has trouble against the bigger power forwards. Yeah we need a top 5 pick to get Porter or Noel.

    Scott, I understand you disagree with Hunter who feels Johnson’s best position is at the 2 spot. Your point is duly noted. If the Suns feel that way Oladipo may be their guy.

  • Ty-Sun

    Foreveris2long, I’m not a big fan of Zeller either. I think he will be a good but never great NBA player. I just don’t think that he’s the guy that the Suns should pick considering considering where they are now and where the want to be. But that also depends on where the Suns draft pick ultimately falls. If they get one of the top 5-6 draft picks and take Zeller, I will be disappointed. If they take him in the 7-10 range, it will depend on who was taken before the Suns got to pick and who they might have passed up on before I pass judgement. If the Suns somehow fall out of the top 10 in this year’s draft and Zeller falls into their lap, I’d be happy.

  • Azbballfan

    I think the Suns could use an upgrade at the power forward spot

    We need to figure out why Makrieff Morris shoots 40 percent from the floor and why his brother is much more productive

    If Nerlens Noel is not availible when we pick, i hope the Suns pick Victor Oladipo

    The Suns should talk to teams in the back end of the lotto about getting a pick from them for someone like Marcin Gortat

    Use it to draft someone like Alex Len or Anthony Bennett

    any good power forward we can get

    I think Len and Oladipo would be two great additions to the team

    Dragic, Oladipo, Johnson, is a pretty good defense back court

    The Suns are terrible at 3 point defense

    if the Suns make a trade and get the 7th and 13th picks i will be happy

    oh yeah we should take Jamaal Franklin with one our picks in the 2nd round

    He plays for San Diego State and he is 6 foot 5 215 lbs

    he has incredible length and athleticism

    he gets 9 boards a game from the guard spot, wow!

    Have Franklin and Beasley (assuming he is still around) come off the bench with Marshall and Hadaddi

    (by the way i predicted a long time ago the Suns should get him. I like his defense and rebounding and he could start for us if we needed him)

    I dont expect Marcin Gortat to last past the 2013 NBA draft

    He is on a really good expirng deal

    if someone gives us a pick for him i would be fine with that

  • foreveris2long

    AzBball, I have not seen Franklin. I will keep an eye out for him. Thanks for the insight. I agree about Gortat. I hope the Suns can get a lottery pick for him but I have my doubts because he just did not show up at times. Trading Gortat should accelerate the Suns rebuild project if the Suns make good use of the pick.

  • Scott

    BTW, why are the Suns so bad on perimeter defense?

    IIRC, the Suns did well against the Spurs in the 4th quarter in that last game.

    Is it a matter of personnel (not long enough, athletic enough, poor effort), a matter of defensive strategy (guard the basket but leave open the more difficult long range shots), or something else?

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