Preview: Denver Nuggets (1-3) at Phoenix Suns (3-2)

Time: 7:00 pm MDT






Tonight the Suns return home to Phoenix after a hard fought three game road trip. They face a Denver Nuggets team which, four games into the season, looks like a shadow of its former self. Last year, the Nuggets were one of the toughest teams in the Western Conference and nearly unbeatable at home. This year, they are 1-3 and have already dropped two games at the Pepsi Center. Andre Iguodala is gone. Danilo Gallinari is still hurt. And Coach of the Year George Karl is probably laughing to himself in a mansion somewhere. The Nuggets ran Phoenix out of the gym several times last season, but this year, they look like a team the Suns can and should beat. Here are the three big questions to be addressed in this game.

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

One of the big surprises in this short season has been the Suns’ defense. Heading into tonight’s game they rank seventh in Defensive Efficiency and sixth in point allowed per game. Phoenix has held every opponent they’ve faced, save the Spurs, to under 44% shooting from the field. The Nuggets have only surpassed that percentage once, in their win last night over the visiting Hawks. If the Suns can defend Denver into a poor shooting night from the field, Phoenix should have a great shot to win.

Which team will have the advantage from downtown?

The Suns and Nuggets are 10th and 11th respectively in made threes per game. The Suns, thanks primarily to Gerald Green and P.J. Tucker, are shooting a very respectable 35% from downtown. The Nuggets, however, are currently connecting on a whopping 44.2% of their three point attempts. This will have to be a big point of emphasis for the Suns’ defense. Denver has four excellent shooters in Ty Lawson, Randy Foye, Jordan Hamilton, and Nate Robinson, each of whom is capable of knocking down multiple triples in a game. To win the battle from deep, Phoenix will need excellent perimeter defense and communication from both their first and second units tonight.

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

Solely for the purposes of this preview, I’m giving Eric Bledsoe and Ish Smith wrestler names. For Ish, I’ll go with Flash McGrath because he’s speedy and it’s best not to overthink wrestler names. For Bledsoe, I’m going with an ironic name like Smiley, because I’ve never seen the man smile and I’ve always been fuzzy on the definition of irony. So tonight in the Tag Team Battle Royale, we’ve got Smiley and Flash versus Ty “Don’t Call Me Beanie Baby” Lawson and KryptoNate. The guest referee will be Triple H. I’m sure there won’t be any shenanigans.

This question is a bit of a cheat because it’s really two questions wrapped into one. But nevertheless, this game will be decided by which point guards play better. Lawson has been carrying Denver on his back through four games averaging 21 points and 7.5 assists per game. Likewise, Bledsoe has been a revelation so far, especially since Goran Dragic went down. Ish Smith has been a great change of pace guard and has really spurred the second unit in the Suns’ last two games. And Nate Robinson is the most unpredictable player in the NBA. Some nights he will hit the court and miss his first ten shots. Other nights he leads his team to playoff wins. There’s no way to know which Nate will show up, but the Suns will have to be ready for both.

Tony Parker taught Bledsoe a lesson in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s loss. Lawson is an equally fast, equally gifted scorer. Bledsoe will have to be a very quick learner if he wants to come out on top tonight. The key to defending Lawson is to be physical with him when he gives the ball up and make it hard for him to get it back. Otherwise, Bledsoe just has to try and stay in front of him as much as possible. Offensively, Eric has the size and strength advantage. Look for him to run pick and roll with Miles Plumlee to draw JaVale McGee away from the hoop and penetrate to the cup.

Tags: Denver Nuggets Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Preview

  • NOitall

    I don’t think there are two more similar players in the NBA than Ty Lawson and Eric Bledsoe.

    Both are solidly built running backs with similar strength and build [although Bledsoe might be a bit taller]. Both have similar games, built on speed and quickness, deft handles, and the ability to get into the lane. Their numbers on the year so far are almost identical. Neither of them show too much emotion and seem to carry themselves in a similar manner.

    I think Lawson is a more proven long-range shooter, but EB is a superior finisher on the interior. I think EB has the advantage on the defensive end as well.

    This will be an interesting game to watch. Funny thing is, Nate Robinson is the next closest comparison to both of these guys.

  • NOitall

    BTW, this game comes down to how well our bigs play, but not exactly how you would suspect. A big part of the reason our defense has been better, other than having 3-4 perimeter guys that are willing to scramble, rotate and actually try [as opposed to Beasley and Brown out there] is that we have a big guy hedging and recovering on pick and roll plays much better than last year. Denver will kill us if Lawson, Miller, Robinson and Foye are able to penetrate at will and kick to open teammates. How well Frye, Morris, Plumlee play when Faried, McGee and Hickson set picks will be the difference.

    This game is a very good test to see if Plumlee can step up.

  • hawki

    Suns getting some respect in Vegas..
    Game opened as pick em…but Suns now 2 1/2 pt favorites
    not sure if that’s a good thing

  • EBJM

    Suns should just kill Denver because Brian Shaw has significantly slowed down Karl’s track team style of a year ago. Under team President Josh Kroenke’s personal mandate he wants Shaw to develop a half-court, inside-out offense, believing that is the key to playoff success.

    So needless to say Ty Lawson is frustrated as he is obviously well-equipped to be playing uptempo, more like the Suns. Kroenke hired Steve Connelly to replace EOY Masai Ujiri to be his lap dog as Kroenke suffers from Sarveritis.

    First player decision was to ship out their starting center Kosta Koufos to eliminate the competition for JaVale McGee who couldn’t win the job from him under Karl.

    Shaw attempted to replace Faried with Hickson at PF but went back to Faried against the Spurs because Hickson doesn’t have much of a half-court low post game. Problem is neither does Faried as Milsapp killed both of them last night and Horford embarrassed McGee.

    Connelly claims re-signing Andre Igoudala was his #1 priority but accepted less money to play for Mark Jackson and the Warriors. He literally laughed at Connelly at the notion of staying in Denver after Kroenke fired Karl.

    Both of the Nuggets above average SFs, Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler are injured. Former #1 pick Jordan Hamilton starts at SF. Yeah, the Nuggets managed a two-point win over the Hawks but the Hawks have regressed themselves since Joe Johnson and Mike Woodsen days.

    Nuggets managed a victory against the Hawks because they got 52 points from their bench and 63 points from their four guards. Back-up center Mozgov had the best production of any Denver “big”, getting 10 and 6 in only 18 minutes. Mozgov had packed his bags also after Karl was fired, heading back to Europe but Conelly begged him to stay after giving away Koufos because that would have left under-sized Hickson to play back-up center.

    Faried and Hickson combined for 17 rebounds but little else. McGee managed 14 points but only grabbed 3 boards. As a team they did have a bit of a block party swatting 8 of the Hawk’s shots.

    Nuggets played last night and are frustrated and confused trying to slow things down under Shaw. Horny and the Suns should come out running and blow this game open.

    If the Morri don’t both have career nights against noticeably inferior match-ups then at the very least they need to promise not of say another word for the remainder of the season.

    Better yet they should do the classy thing and retire simultaneously.

  • Ty-Sun

    Does anyone else think that the hiring of Shaw by Denver is at least a little like when the Suns hired Terry Porter? We all know how well that worked out.

  • EBJM

    Ty-Sun is is very similar IMO. It just amazes me what how involved some owners get when they should be silent owners.

    Karl loved getting rid of Carmelo and Ujiri did a great job getting Karl talent and Karl responded by borrowing a page from former Nugget coach Doug Moe and led the league in scoring on the way to a franchise record 57 wins.

    Then you look at Dolan in New York who imploded what Donnie Walsh had put together with D’Antoni and Amare just to acquire Carmelo. Now Carmelo isn’t happy in New York and IMO will sign with the Lakers this summer leaving the Knicks in a mess.

    It is refreshing that Sarver is no longer the worst owner in the league. Jordan, Kroenke and Dolan have easily passed him.

  • Ty-Sun

    EBJM, oh man you just brought back some memories. I lived in Denver in the mid- and late 80′s and sat many nights in the cheap seats at McNichols Arena watching Doug Moe coaching teams that revolved around Alex English and Fat Lever. I loved watching the Nugs play back then and really confused some of the other fans in the stands when the Nugs and Suns played while I cheered every time EITHER team scored. :)

  • Ty-Sun

    BTW, I agree that Melo will probably leave NY for LA leaving NY a total mess next year. And I really feel bad for Stat. Although he’s still going to make a sh!t load of money, people in NY will probably find a way to blame it all on him instead of Dolan. Stat’s contract is too big for the Knicks to go after another big name FA to keep Melo happy without going deep into luxury tax territory. But Dolan brought Stat in KNOWING his injury history and still gave him a max contract. And then Dolan was too dumb to understand that Stat and Melo weren’t a good match. But Dolan has just never learned that – at least in the NBA – throwing a load of money at a problem isn’t enough to fix it.

  • EBJM

    Ty-Sun you are Old School so you can appreciate this. So many young Suns fans or SSOL bandwagon fans think that Nash is the greatest PG ever. I’m glad you gave Fat Lever a shout out.

    As we both know he is a former Sun Devil so it is ironic for Nash fans not to recognize Fat Lever. He was Nash’s size, 6′-3″ but only 175#. But at his peak he ran the original SSOL for Doug Moe and the Nuggets.

    In his four peak seasons he posted approximate averages of 18 points, 8+ rebounds, 7.5 assists, & 2.5 steals per game. The man holds the Nuggets record for triple-doubles with FORTY-SIX!

    Here is the item that separates so many PGs from Nash, DEFENSE. Fat made an All-Defense 2nd team once and the All-NBA 2nd team once.

    Just like the NBA All-Time assist leader John Stockton who was a ferocious defender. Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Terry Porter, so many played fantastic defense but Nash is the best ever because he won two MVPs while playing in the no defense required D’Antoni’s SSOL.

    Oh well, those of who have watched the NBA before 2004 have seen many great PGs who didn’t get abused nightly by their opponent.

    Nash lovers don’t bother arguing I’ve heard it all before.

  • john

    I loved Nash for what he was, but he’d be the third PG I’d take in just Suns history, let alone NBA history.

  • Ty-Sun

    EBJM, I won’t try to add too much more to what you have said about Lafayette “Fat” Lever, but I must say that I LOVED watching him play! He and Alex English were phenomenal to watch together. AE was an 8 time NBA All-Star but I think that was at least partially because he played with “Fat”.

  • Azbballfan

    Suns have to defend the 3 and stop McGee from getting easy dunks inside if they want to recover from a 1 win two loss road trip

    McGee may make alot of stupid mistakes, but he is also a incredible athlete and can get on a roll if he gets some easy points

    Dragic and Len might play tonight

    would be nice to see a good game from either after some time off due to ankle problems

  • EBJM

    The biggest issue will be to keep Faried and Hickson off the boards and Ish Smith will probally get the nod when Robinson enters the game. They control those three and Suns should be fine. Nuggets have nothing at SF. This should be Marcus’s turn to post career numbers.

    Morri, are you reading our board? Pay attention please!

  • rogue sam

    Suns r good.

  • rogue sam

    Sorry 4da personal crap. But den will be sorta ok. Notby much

  • Sunsn7

    Markieff is balling tonight and playing with the passion we wanted to see from the outset.

    and a big LOL to ebjm’s commentary on nash fans

  • Sunsn7

    VTSunrise must be on the Lakers blogs these days…Val too lol.

    Good to see THE PADRE drop in too!

    SUNS WIN…glad its a deeeep draft!

  • rogue sam

    Good game. Just
    good nothing more.

  • Sunsn7

    Hey EBJM?

    Markieff says “Take That!”

  • rogue sam

    Good luck w/da Suns season. Wish them all the best.

  • vtsunrise

    Bite it, 7.

  • Sunsn7

    Heh heh heh

  • Evan

    Bledsoe and the Morris twins are messing up the plan