It wasn’t pretty by any measure, as the Denver Nuggets picked apart the Suns, in route to a 25-point victory. The Nuggets jumped on the Suns from the start, and held a large lead all the way through the game, which never reached single-digits after the first quarter. The Nuggets absolutely crushed the Suns on the glass, winning the rebound battle 58-to-34, and they bested the Suns in pretty much every aspect of the game.
23 of the 26 players that appeared in the game scored, as both teams emptied their benches midway through the third quarter, with Miles Plumlee, Alex Len and Jusuf Nurkic being the only players held without a made basket. Arron Afflalo lead the way for Denver, scoring 22 points on just nine field goal attempts, and after the game, he was quick to point out the difference in how the Nuggets had played.
“I thought we did a better job on defense,” Afflalo said. “We played hard from the beginning of the game, which was something we struggled with earlier this year.”
The Suns saw themselves fall being early, as they began the game on the wrong side of an 8-to-2 run. Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris combined to shoot 0-of-6 from the field over that spurt, and Jeff Hornacek had to take a quick timeout to stop the bleeding with 8:42 to go in the first quarter.
Marcus Morris was the only Suns’ player to score in the first four minutes of the game, making his first two field goal attempts, and he would be the only player on the Suns to record a made basket over the first 4 minutes and 50 seconds. The sloppy play would continue for quite a while, as Phoenix would trail 33-22 at the end of the first quarter and 66-47 at the half, and it only got worse as the game went on.
Denver’s dominant first half
The Nuggets absolutely pounded the Suns in the first half, leading 66-47 at the break. Denver shot 48.0% from the floor, and the Nuggets also didn’t let very many points slip by at the line, hitting 15-of-17 free throws. Denver’s starters combined for just three turnovers, with an average plus/minus of +7.2, but it was the bench that really sparked the team, needing just a quarter-and-a-half to outscore the Suns’ bench effort from the entire first half.
Denver’s bench ended the half with 29 points, while the Suns were at 23, despite playing one of their starters, Marcus Morris, for just six minutes. The Nuggets also dominated the Suns on the glass, with 24 defensive rebounds and 33 total rebounds, compared to 13 and 15 respectively for the Suns. At the break, Denver had four players with more than three rebounds and three players with five or more rebounds, while the Suns had just one player above three: Alex Len (4).
Gerald Green’s encore performance
A couple of days after leading the Suns to victory over the Nuggets with a 24-point outburst, Gerald Green was looking to keep up his production on the offensive end of the court. Green lead the Suns with 12 first half points, including a couple of three-pointers, one of which came against some pretty tough defense.
Green wouldn’t do much of anything in the second half, missing a couple of shots in his very brief time on the court. Before long, Hornacek cleared the bench, sending in the young-guns to finish out the game, as the Nuggets’ lead had ballooned to 30.
As is often the case in a blowout, many of the Suns’ players and coaches we’re frustrated with the way the game was going. Jeff Hornacek picked up a technical foul in the first half, and Markieff Morris picked one up early in the second, after yelling an expletive after he thought he was fouled on a made basket.
After making his next shot, Markieff Morris would turn around and stare down the Nuggets’ bench, and overall it was just a frustrating night for the team. On the other side of things, Jusuf Nurkic would pick up a late technical foul for standing over Archie Goodwin after blocking a shot. While the Denver announce crew was quite unhappy with the call, it was apparent that toward the end of the game the referees were doing their best to try to keep everything in order, and they did a good job of preventing any late-game fights.
There certainly weren’t very many positives in the game, but a couple of the players on the Suns put in fairly decent performances. P.J. Tucker was solid for Phoenix, providing an instant spark when he checked into the game, with back-to-back three pointers. Tucker would end the game with 11 points, including 3-of-4 shooting from three-point range.
Marcus Morris also had a fairly decent performance, despite being in foul trouble for pretty much the entire game. Morris made his first three field goal attempts, and he ended up with 8 points and 4 rebounds, in just 14 minutes, which would project out to 15 points and 7 rebounds if he played his season-average of 25.6 minutes per game.
Overall, it was a rough night for the Suns, who just looked like the worse team from the start, but one of the things the loss did provide was the chance for the Suns to give their young players extra minutes. Goodwin, Warren and Ennis totaled a combined 29 points and 7 rebounds in 53 minutes, and it was somewhat pleasing to see them get their chance to play a little bit, as they all played most of the fourth quarter. The Suns will look to put this loss behind them this Sunday, as they’ll return home to take on the Orlando Magic.