Preview: Denver Nuggets (42-22) at Phoenix Suns (22-41)


Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSAZ

Nuggets

Nuggets

Suns Logo

Suns

When the Phoenix Suns lost center Marcin Gortat to a foot sprain against the Toronto Raptors two games ago, the offense sputtered. To be fair, expecting a refurbished offensive gameplan to come midgame from a coaching staff that in its own way lost depth and continuity – when Alvin Gentry, Dan Majerle and Elston Turner left the team – would be much to ask for.

So to Lindsey Hunter and Igor Kokoskov’s credit, the next two games resulted in boosts in offensive production. The most recent outing, a 107-105 win against the Houston Rockets on Saturday, showed growth on both ends.

While nothing is consistent with a team vying for lottery picks, the Suns could use the same type of gameplan on Monday against the Denver Nuggets. George Karl’s team, like the Rockets, wants to run and it’s blitzed opponents for eight straight wins.

Phoenix handled Houston by getting in the passing lanes, using ball pressure with the surprising backline support from Hamed Haddadi and forcing turnovers. They’ll need to continue that against Denver, but instead of a spread out three-point happy offense – the Nuggets take 10 less three-pointers per game than the Rockets – the Nuggets will pose a challenge for the Suns with their speed and athleticism.

Most of that starts with point guard Ty Lawson, who has been on a tear of late. He’s coming of a season-best 32-point performance in a 111-88 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, and he’s also the playmaker to break down defenses, especially in transition.

The pace will be something to watch, and causing havoc in the turnover department will be key for Phoenix once again. But capitalizing on those turnovers is what will put the Suns over the top. Easy buckets are one thing, but the Nuggets are also a decent defensive team, rankings No. 15 in the NBA in giving up 105.5 points per 100 possessions this season, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

So the Suns’ offense that has been simplified, according to Hunter, must continue to produce as it has in the last two games.

Phoenix must deal with a number of fearsome matchups. Whereas they survived a James Harden explosion two days ago, the Nuggets pose problems a good 10 players deep. How will Wes Johnson deal with Olympian Andre Iguodala? Can Markieff Morris match Kenneth Faried’s energy? Will Dragic use his size to negate Lawson’s speed?

Even on the bench, Denver has the advantage. The limber JaVale McGee could see some success against Haddadi, and Dudley must be ready to match the explosiveness of the likes of Wilson Chandler and Corey Brewer. And Kendall Marshall will be tested against either Lawson’s speed or Andre Miller’s point guard post-up game.

All in all, that’s to say the Nuggets are quietly hiding in the weeds amongst the NBA’s sub-elite. The task is tall for the Suns, but they’ve shown in recent games that when they put a complete game together, an injury- and talent-riddled roster can still hang.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    Hey guys,

    Looks like the Livefyre commenting plugin wasn’t working properly and looking into it. Were you having issues over the last few days?

    Also, can’t wait for the Haddadi/JaVale matchup tonight.

  • http://none Keith

    Don’t know. I hadn’t posted since the livefyre whatever started. I don’t know what it is and don’t want to sign up for it. Nice preview. Should be a fun game tonight!

  • Ty-Sun

    Yes, I haven’t been able to leave a comment for several days even though I had signed up with Livefyre and was posting before.

    I was impressed with Haddadi last game. It will be interesting to see how he performs tonight.

  • Scott

    Whoa … back to the old comment system format! :)

    I know it’s early to think about this, but any opinions on the Suns trading for additional picks this year?

    If the Lakers make it to the playoffs (looking very possible right now), the Suns get one lottery pick and one VERY late first pick. On DraftExpress’s board, that would mean Cody Zeller and Giannis Adetokumbo. Those are two good players, and the Suns could of course pick differently.

    But – assuming the Lakers make the playoffs – would you consider attempting to shop the higher pick for two other first round picks, like for the #10 and #28 from OKC, or the #8 and #26 from the Wolves?

  • Scott

    BTW, in reference to the poll question (should the Suns have traded Shannon Brown), my guess is that the Suns tried and couldn’t find a taker.

  • Ty-Sun

    Talking about trading draft picks is meaningless until the end of the season.

  • DanC133

    I’m glad the livefyre crashed and burned. As soon as I used it I started getting spam from them. I never opted in to get email from them and damn sure don’t want it.

    The jury is still out on our newest center. It appears he sets nice screens, boxes out decent, and tries hard to protect the rim. I’m guessing the nuggets will run him ragged with their pace.

    Markieff doesn’t have anywhere near the motor of manimal and will likely be shown up. I’m also unsure if Goran can stay in front of the speedster Ty Lawson. It should be a fun game to watch strictly from the standpoint of pace.

  • Scott

    @DanC133 -

    I thought Haddadi used to run better than he does now. It could be that he’s heavier and not as well-conditioned as he was when he came into the league. If that’s the case, we may see steady improvement from him as he gets his legs back. IIRC, he used to have a PER of about 17 or so in limited, but regular, minutes. I used to call for the Suns to pick him up, back when they needed a big cheap center, but then he got charged for assault on his girlfriend and I gave up on him.

    As for Markieff, I’m mainly disappointed at his poor shooting. I expected a lot better, especially now that the rookie jitters are gone. Pretty much every time he shoots now, I cringe, expecting a miss. If he could bring his accuracy up to match Dudley, I’d be more inclined to keep him, but as is … I’m liking his brother better.

  • Scott

    As for Markieff on Faried … I don’t think the Suns need to play that way any more. Now that they’ve benched Brown and brought Wes and Marcus into the lineup, they can put Marcus, Wes, Dudley, or Tucker on the Manimal, depending on who’s covering Iggy. I think Tucker would be a good match, energy-wise.

    Markieff might be better covering Gallinari, especially if Beasley is taking the night off on defense.

    As for Kendall Marshall, I look forward to seeing him play against Andre Miller, regardless of how it goes. Marshall needs to see how a crafty, relatively unathletic PG operates.

  • mileHighfan

    Sometimes George karl takes Faried out in favor of a shooter like Chandler. I hope Haddadi takes Koufos out. Nugs cant guard the perimeter. If the Suns dont have decent D, they need to break out the track shoes for the ultramarathon, with solar-flare type energy.

    Isnt a loss still a win for Phx in terms of lil bouncy white balls?

  • mileHighfan

    Marshall played very well on Sat. Hope he gets more PT.

  • Ty-Sun

    BTW, I never got any spam from Livefyre. I had to opt out of getting follow-up comments and/or new posts instead of opting in for them with this format but that wasn’t a big deal. If you can figure out how to get Livefyre to work properly again, I’d prefer it.

  • Forever is2long

    Good to see the board back in some type of order. I missed the game on Saturday but was pleasantly surprised with the win. Someone perhaps, scott, was talking about the liklihood of the Suns having a late 1st round pick instead of 2 lottery picks. I hope the Suns keep the late 1st round pick and try to draft 6’10″ power forward Paeyne from Michigan State, who I think is really good but is not presently on the the draft board at Draft Express.

    As for our lottery pick it seems every player this summer will have significant questions. People already question the inconsistency of McClemore and Oladipo with their jump shots. I like Otto Porter but his upside may not be as high as the 2 mentioned above.

  • Forever is2long

    Please put me in the Not So High on Markief Fan Club.

  • Scott

    @Forever -

    I was indeed the one thinking about drafting strategies. Normally, if you can get a high lottery pick you just go with it; you could get a franchise player. And yet each year’s draft is different, and it’s looking like this draft could have a lot of players with potential in the first round.

    The Suns are due 2 first found picks this year. If the Lakers fail to make the playoffs – giving the Suns 2 lottery picks – I suggest the Suns stand pat and accept the good fortune.

    But if the Lakers make the playoffs and the Suns get their own lottery pick plus an end of the first round pick, would it be worthwhile to attempt to trade the top pick for a lower lottery pick plus an additional (lower) first rounder?

    Naturally, if the Suns can do anything else to get a first round pick (trades of Scola, Gortat, or whoever) that could change the scenario, as well as the draft order and how players rank after the combine.

    If the Lakers make the playoffs, DraftExpress has the Suns project to pick #4 and #29.

    The question is: would you consider trading #4 to Minnesota for their #8 and #26, or to OKC for their #10 and #28?

    What it would amount to, in general, is taking a high lottery player like Cody Zeller (#4) and a low first rounder like Giannis Adetokunbo (#29), or keeping the #29 (Adetokunbo) and giving up the #4 (Zeller) in favor of Victor Oladipo (#8) and CJ Leslie (#26), or Isaiah Austin (#10) and Gorgui Dieng (#28).

    I bring this up because I think the Suns could trade with OKC, but I wouldn’t want to give up a franchise player.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    Thanks for the feedback, ya’ll. Didn’t know about any spam. At the same time, we liked Livefyre because it kept spam off these boards itself and seemed simple enough to sign up for through Twitter/Facebook/etc. Of course, I realize some of you might not feel comfortable with that as well. Obviously, it’s not good that it was broken altogether so we’ll see if that gets fixed and then make a decision.

    By the way, Jermaine is back with the team but not suiting up for this game. Good to see.

  • foreveris2long

    Scott I get what you are saying trading down if the Lakers make the playoffs. last summer I wanted the Suns to take Henson or trade down to get 2 1st round picks. We could have gotten Perry JonesIII and another player in the 1st round instead of Marshall. Marshall may have been available at 20.

    I probably would not trade a #3 or 4 pick to move down because this draft is not very strong but I definitely get your logic.

  • foreveris2long

    Let me go on record as saying it is really difficult watching Marshall play the point and watch Markieff play power forward. I also hope the Suns do not draft Zeller as he will get eaten up in the NBA.Both of them are athletically challenged who are not particularly good at anything. Hadadi isn’t too bad. Good effort by him tninght.