Time: 7 p.m. MST
TV: FSASo, is it a blessing or a curse that the Phoenix Suns begin their post All-Star break schedule in the high altitude of Denver, Colorado? Probably depends on how you look at it.
The blessing part of it comes in form of the Suns having heaps of success against the Denver Nuggets this season by going a perfect 3-0 thus far and averaging 111.3 points per game. Outside of a couple bad stretches in the first two games, the Suns have had their way against a Nuggets defense that gives up 104.5 points per game, which is good for the third most in the NBA.
On top of that, the Suns have done a fantastic job of limiting Kenneth Faried this season in all three games. Faried has not had more than 10 points or five rebounds in any game against the Suns and is averaging half of his 10.4 points and 7.5 rebounds against the Orange and Purple. That is probably due to the fact the Suns have an athletic center in Miles Plumlee that can run the court with him. But some credit can also go towards Jeff Hornacek and the coaching staff for putting in a game plan that keeps the “Manimal” grounded.
“He’s obviously a big emphasis and you have to box him out,” Hornacek said after practice on Monday. “You have to run back with him, he is going to try to out-muscle and out-hustle you and our guys know if you don’t bring it he can kill you.”
Outside of the Suns past success this season comes the fact that the Nuggets are currently on a four game losing streak averaging only 92.2 points and giving up 119.7 per game during that stretch. For those who are not mathematicians, that is a 27-point difference. In other words, it hasn’t been pretty.
With all that being said, you would think this game should be a walk in the park, but now comes the curse of playing Denver the first game after the break.
The Suns have been off since Tuesday night’s game against the Miami Heat. That is five days off until a practice on Monday. How will the players react to playing in the Rocky Mountains?
“We will see if they really did do anything over the break,” Hornacek said.
Some players were a bit slow during Monday’s practice, and Hornacek is interested to see how the team responds to the tough conditions.
After Tuesday, the Suns host the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night at U.S. Airways Center putting the team in a tough stretch right out of the gate.
“I am happy we are starting out with a back to back,” forward P.J. Tucker said. “Let’s get it rolling.”
Let’s roll right on to some thoughts I have about tonight’s game.
Can the Suns slow down Ty Lawson?
UPDATE: Lawson is not expected to play as he continues recovering from a rib injury.
Lawson is one of the few players on the Nuggets that has caused the Suns problems this season. The point guard has had a 29-point game and a 14-assist game against Phoenix this season and is a big part what makes the Nuggets go on offense. I’m sure Hornacek doesn’t want Dragic spending too much time on Lawson defensively, and I would expect Leandro Barbosa or Ish Smith to come in with the priority of defending the dynamic point guard.
Avoid the slow start
We all know what happened in the teams’ first meeting in Denver back in December. The Nuggets led by as many as 20 in the second quarter and took a 14-point lead into the half before the Suns put on the defensive clamps and came all the way back to steal one on the road with a 103-99 victory. Tonight, the Suns need to come out and play good basketball from the get-go, especially considering how bad Denver has been recently. Something isn’t clicking under first year head coach Brian Shaw, and the Suns may be able to get them to lay down if they jump them early.
The Tucker flop meter
Tucker was issued a flopping warning after a play against LeBron James last Tuesday night. The warning was the first by a Suns player this season and the next flop will bring a $5,000 fine to Tucker. Yesterday, Tucker said that he did not flop, but may have fell a bit harder than he needed to. The warning is not going to change how he plays the game though.
“I’m going to play like I play and not think about it because I am not a flopper,” Tucker said.