Banged Up Nuggets Keep Lead Throughout, Beat Suns 104-96


Gallinari, Mudiay, Jameer, and Wilson Chandler were all inactive for the Nuggets tonight as they went up against a full strength Phoenix Suns squad. With players on the bench and minutes to give out, it is interesting to see who will flourish and step up to the plate for the time in need. Branded SG Randy Foye got the start over Nelson at PG, and Barton started at the 3 for Gallo.

Bledsoe and Knight are one of the more explosive backcourts in the league, averaging a combined 41 points per contest. The Suns have recently been experimenting with lineup alterations, specifically at the 3 and 4. Tonight they started TJ Warren and Jon Leuer respectively, bringing Markieff Morris and PJ Tucker off the bench.

The Nuggets bounced out of the tip off with exuberance after dropping a tough loss to the Lakers last night. In the first quarter they looked for their shots and penetrated the defense well, creating collapses and open looks from outside.

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  • Denver scored 33 in the first quarter, attempting 10 three pointers in the first 12 minutes and shooting over 50 percent from the field. There was no selfishness, and they found the hot hands (Darrell Arthur and Randy Foye) when the defense permitted. The Nuggets had seven different players score in the first quarter; the Suns had just three different guys put the ball in the hoop.

    Entering the second quarter with a 12-point lead, they expanded the lead to as many as 22. Halfway through the quarter the Nuggets lost a step and failed to make a couple open shots. Five Nugget turnovers in the second half of the second quarter led to 10 points for the Suns, helping Phoenix rally to within six points rolling into halftime.

    Early in the third quarter the Nuggets defense came off exhausted, and allowed for some early penetration and easy offensive rebounds for second chance buckets. As the quarter progressed, Foye put the team on his back cashing 15 points on 10 shots. The rest of the team shot 20% in the quarter. Fortunately for the Nuggs, Phoenix was icebox cold as well, shooting just 38 percent for a modest 22-point quarter.

    Entering the fourth quarter nearly neck and neck, Nugget fans began to sense some close-out jitters. The quarter began with Denver up five, but a long back and forth battle came down to big shots at the end of the game.

    Ronnie Price was the Suns shining savior, who had 11 points (3 threes) in the fourth quarter (20 on the game, 6 threes). Unfortunately crucial missed shots (36 percent in the 4th), 6 turnovers, and several Nugget calls going their way, the Suns couldn’t muster a strong comeback.

    Randy Foye was the big man on campus; womping a deep contested three with a minute and a half left to go up nine. He followed the three with a swaying drive through the lane for an open layup to seal the game. All Phoenix could do was foul and cross their fingers and toes for a miracle.

    Now 12-17, the Nuggets are jumping into the most difficult five game stretch of the season. Hopefully Gallo can come back after resting the past two games and contribute some needed scoring.

    It will be important for Randy Foye to keep his confidence up, especially after a huge game such as this. If he can consistently put up 15+ shots a game, he can produce necessary creation while Denver deals with an array of backcourt injuries. They get the Spurs the day after Christmas. Hopefully some family time will help the teams morale.