The Denver Nuggets are finally playing on Christmas Day and it’s against a conference rival. The marquee matchup will see the Nuggets will face off against the Phoenix Suns in one of five reported matchups.
This matchup is particularly spicy after the way the second-round series between the two finished. In the 2021 playoffs, a shorthanded Denver team was swept by Chris Paul and Devin Booker’s Suns. The Nuggets didn’t have Jamal Murray who had recently torn his ACL and Michael Porter Jr. was suffering a back injury which eventually limited his 2021-22 campaign.
To open the 2021-22 season, the Nuggets beat the Suns 110-98 but lost the following two matchups.
This next season will be the first time the Chris Paul-led Suns have had to face a fully healthy Nuggets team in a nationally televised game. This level of competition could re-ignite some of the bad blood between these two rosters with Jokic committing some hard fouls in the 2021 playoff series.
From a matchup point of view, this will be the first time Deandre Ayton has had to defend Jokic with the full complement of Nuggets around him. Ayton has played excellent, mature defense against the Serbian in their past matchups but a lot of that defense has been in the post or helping on drivers.
With Murray starting alongside Jokic, Ayton will have to try and contain the explosive Jokic-Murray pick-and-roll that terrorized the league the last time these two were healthy.
If the Nuggets comfortably win this matchup on one of the NBA’s biggest stages, it’ll spark a frustrating conversation on which team is better. This rivalry started when both teams were climbing up the Western Conference standing but because of circumstance, the Suns have never had to face a full-strength Nuggets team. How will they hold up?