Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns Preview


The Matchup: Denver Nuggets (11-17) vs. Phoenix Suns (12-18)

Location: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ

Time: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 – 9:00 P.M. ET

How to Watch: Altitude, FOX Sports Arizona

Betting Line (per Bovada): Suns -9

Projected Starting Lineups:

Denver: PG Randy Foye, SG Gary Harris, SF Will Barton, PF Kenneth Faried, C Joffrey Lauvergne

Phoenix: PG Brandon Knight, SG Eric Bledsoe, SF TJ Warren, PF Jon Leuer, C Tyson Chandler

The Nuggets will look to douse their current 3 game skid against the Suns on Wednesday night. Prior to the 3 L’s, the Nuggets were looking pristine with wins over Toronto, Minnesota (2x), Houston (again), and Philly to combine for a 5-1 record over 15 days. After dropping back to back losses to Utah and then New Orleans, Denver couldn’t pull it together late against the Lakers last night, and lost a tight battle in the 4th quarter.

Whether you attribute the abrupt halt to their surmounting momentum to injuries or to the failure to close out ball games, it is clear they need to get the train back on the tracks. Phoenix will transition the Nuggets into a rocky stretch where they will have to take on powerhouses OKC, San Antonio, and Cleveland respectively across the next three games (then Portland, then Golden State. Ouch). To avoid turning this 3 game skid into an 8 or 9 game losing landslide a win against Phoenix tonight is crucial.

Keys to the Game:

It is critical that the Nuggets offense rides the hot hand. Currently Gallinari is listed as out for the second consecutive game, and although swings such as Barton and Harris have been stepping up when Gallo sits, the inconsistency is palpable. Barton had 23 points in the first half last night, but finished with 25. Harris finished the game with 21 points, but other than a sequence late in the fourth was spread out and took fewer shots than fans would have preferred. For the Nuggets to capitalize on their offensive production, especially with creators like Gallo and Mudiay upping their hospital bills, it is imperative that Denver draws plays for scoring plays that revolve around whoever is hot at that moment. That may sound like a captain obvious statement, but role-player-turned-starter-because-of-injury guys don’t get enough opportunity to shine in the spotlight, especially when they begin to prove themselves.

More from Nugg Love

Another strong key to the game is to maintain the strong perimeter defense that has been enforced these past several games. The Suns are a strong 3-point shooting team, with firecracker Knight and lights out rook Devin Booker. Denver needs to overcompensate on the perimeter as they did against LA (26.9% from deep), and Toronto (29.6%).

It is also important for the team to keep fresh legs in the game. Minutes need to be spread out on teams that have no star player. Everyone saw Rick Carlisle freak out on his Mavericks about only playing hard for one half of the game. These Nuggets role players are strong, but need to be consistently refurbished for the team to play a hard game for 48 straight minutes.

Top Performer: Will Barton is poised to have a strong game here. Phoenix has been iffy with their wing defense, and is still shuffling around different lineup possibilities. Coming off a strong performance last night, and the thirst for winning blood, Barton should come out of the gate similar to his game against the Lakers. One can only hope he finishes how he starts. I see him dropping 26 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 steals.

Final Score Prediction: Nuggets win 96-90 over the Suns who fail to come all the way back after being down 17 entering the fourth quarter. Eric Bledsoe scores 14 points in the fourth and the Suns go on a 20-4 run that is cut short by back to back Gary Harris threes. Specific predictions may sound goofy but imagine how incredible this is if it happens.