Phoenix Suns 114, Denver Nuggets 103 -- Dueling Rope-a-Dopes


It’s official. The Suns are the most entertaining team in the NBA. Though the season is still young, the Suns are already old pros at keeping the drama night in and night out. Their 114-103 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets is just the latest example of how much fun the Suns are to watch. Phoenix can dunk, shoot, and run with the best of them, and whether they are succeeding or failing, it’s hard to take your eyes off this team.


For all you sports heathens out there who don’t know what the Rope-a-Dope is, it’s a boxing strategy made famous by Muhammad Ali. Essentially, it involves backing up to the ropes and letting your opponent hit you repeatedly. The goal is to let the ropes take the punishment while your opponent tires himself out. Once he’s exhausted, you come alive like Rocky Balboa and clean his clock. The Nuggets and new head coach Brian Shaw pulled an incredible Rope-a-Dope on the Suns in this game.

In the second quarter, Phoenix was leading by eight points when Denver suddenly went ice cold. The Nuggets went the last seven and half minutes of the first half without a single field goal. The Suns poured it on, running up and down the floor at lightning speed, trying to put Denver away for good. They kept the crowd on their feet and grew the lead to 17 points by the end of the half. The Nuggets looked finished, and the Suns looked like they felt a victory was already assured.

But Coach Hornacek made a critical error. He played Bledsoe 20 minutes in the first half because he didn’t trust Ish Smith to contain Ty Lawson. When the Suns came out in the third quarter, Bledsoe was visibly exhausted. He gave the ball up on offense just after crossing half court on nearly every possession and seemed content to stand out on the wing while the Suns committed six turnovers and shot a pathetic 2-of-13 from the field. Defensively, Bledsoe was hopeless. Lawson scorched him for 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the third quarter alone. Bledsoe constantly lost Lawson when he moved without the ball. Eric was lazy in fighting over screens in pick and roll situation. All in all, he was hurting the team more than he was helping it. Over the first 10 minutes of the third, the Nuggets turned a 17 point deficit into an 11 point lead en route to a 40-20 third quarter.

But the Suns refused to go down without a fight. They reeled off an 8-0 run of their own to cut the lead to three heading into the fourth. In the final frame, the roles were totally reversed. Lawson was too exhausted to contribute, and Bledsoe was too much to handle. All of Lawson’s shots were short, and his only two points came after the Suns had retaken a double-digit lead. Bledsoe, on the flip side, triumphantly rebounded from his abysmal performance in the third. He scored nine points include a game-sealing three as the shot clock expired that put Phoenix up nine with one minute left to play. It was a truly gutty performance.

It has been a long time since the city of Phoenix has had a basketball team capable of winning this type of game. Most Suns’ teams of the past would have given up when their 18-point lead withered away. But this iteration of the Suns is young and hungry. The rest of the league will take notice soon.

Can the Suns’ defense get back on track after the hiccup against the Spurs?

The short answer is no. The Suns were content to run all night long and try to outscore the Nuggets. Denver finished the night shooting 45% from the field, but that figure doesn’t really tell the story. As I mentioned before the Nuggets were ice cold in the second and fourth quarters, where they shot 26% and 39 % respectively. When they took the lead in the third they shot a red hot 59% from the field. Trust me when I say that the Suns played the same lackadaisical D the entire game, the Nuggets were really only able to take advantage of it in the third. The only defensive adjustment Phoenix made was running a second defender at Lawson to get the ball out of his hands. Denver’s rotation pretty much guaranteed that there would be at least one offensive liability on the court at all times. Why Hornacek waited to employ this double-team strategy until the end of the third quarter is beyond me.

Which team will have the advantage from downtown?

The Suns won the battle from downtown, but only barely. Phoenix shot 9-of-20, while Denver hit 8-of-22. Denver did a great job penetrating, kicking, and zipping the ball around the perimeter to the open man. Most of their attempts were wide open. They just didn’t hit the shots the way they have been thus far this year. Between the clutch threes the Morris twins hit and all of Gerald Green’s breakaway dunks there must have been at least five plays in this game which swung the momentum and made the crowd jump to their feet.

Welcome to the Thunderdome: Which point guard tag team will come out on top?

Lawson certainly won the battle, but I think the Suns’ duo won the war. Both pairs played 48 minutes, but the Phoenix split was 36 to 12 Bledsoe to Smith where as Ty Lawson was forced to play all but seven minutes of the game. Lawson, with his 29 points and 4 assists, had the more impressive stat line for sure, but Bledsoe was there when his team needed him most in the final quarter and was no slouch himself in the stats department (17 points and 9 assists.) Ish Smith was pretty much powerless to stop Lawson defensively, but he was key to the Suns 8-0 run to end the third that definitely swung the momentum and helped the Suns find victory.

Tags: Denver Nuggets Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Recap

  • RudeCerveza

    No doubt, Foreveris, there are offers you can’t refuse. My point was, how do you improve on something if you don’t know what that something is?

    I don’t know about you, but I would perceive the team as not being loyal if they were actively shopping Dragic. He came back because he believed he was really wanted in Phoenix. They gave him red (well, it was orange) carpet treatment and promised him the team to lead and so on and so on.

    If it was just business, he wouldn’t have left bunch of money on the table to be in Phoenix. Charlotte offered $36 mil guaranteed, he would’ve got more money had he stayed in Houston, but he chose loyalty over money.

    He suffered through the worst of times, he played his heart out last year, he played so hard they had to literally bench is ass in the end so they could lose more games.

    And now that things got better, we should immediately start thinking about shipping him out? That’s not loyalty. That’s just bad business.

    Who will be the next guy who will choose Phoenix for less money? Who will be the next guy to come to Phoenix because he is promised great things?

  • foreveris2long

    Rude, Man I love Dragic for all the reasons you just outlined and I do not think they are actively shopping him. Actually I would hate to see him leave if that happens as it seems we owe him something after he came back to the Suns after we insulted him by trading him.

    I do think one of the point guards will be traded by next summer at the latest. If it is Dragic it will leave a void in the team and me because how he respects the game and leaves his heart on the floor every night. While he will likely be the casualty, I think it will have more to do with the development of Bledsoe than anything Dragic did or did not do. The fact Bledsoe is approximately 4 years younger and the Suns are not a championship caliber team will make it very difficult for the Suns to trade Bledsoe. However if the Suns could trade guys like Hornachek and Thunder Dan, they will probably trade Dragic one day if a great deal presents itself.

    However let me be perfectly clear, if he is not traded I am ok with that because he is a baller with high character and you have to love him for that.

  • http://none Keith

    Forever, you are blind. Everyone knows the Warriors are better. The experience alone makes them better but a healthy Bogut and then Iggy matter a hell of a lot more than Jarret Jack. They are a bigtime contender.

  • foreveris2long

    Keith I am not sure who everyone is but just on this board EBJM and I respectfully disagree with you that the Warriors are better. Just because you say it does not make it true. There you go again with wild conclusions, the experience alone makes the Warriors better but the experience alone does not make the Clippers better. By the way Bogut was healthy last year, it was Lee who was injured in the playoffs. Since you are such a student of their evolvement I thought you knew this but I was obviously mistaken. You continue not to make sense.

  • Ty-Sun

    My point is that the Suns should listen to offers but that they actively shop NO ONE. One of the great things about the team they already have is that they are all high character, athletic team players with at least above average B-ball IQs.

    You can’t ask for a better core to build from and I think that McD understands that there is more to consider than pure talent when putting a team together. Right now, every player on this team is an asset but an asset to the team and not a trade asset. A trade may come at or even before the deadline but I think McD should – and will – hold this team together until/unless someone makes him that kind of offer that he just can’t refuse.

  • http://none Keith

    Forever, nothing you say makes any sense. I don’t think you watch or understand basketball.

  • DBreezy

    The rules are fair. The regulations are fair. The competitive balance is fair…….

  • foreveris2long

    Keith I suspect I have played more competitive basketball than you have ever watched.