Phoenix Suns basketball is back! Yay? The Denver Nuggets manhandled the Suns in every way imaginable, leading from midway through the first quarter on to defeat the Suns 127-110 in the preseason opener for both teams in Denver tonight. Ty Lawson led the way for the Nuggets with 21 points on 6-11 FG shooting in 25 minutes of action, and rookie Kenneth Faried made an impressive pro debut with 14 points and 6 rebounds in 15 minutes.
The Suns were led by Marcin Gortat's 14 points and 8 rebounds in 25 minutes and Steve Nash was his usually steady self with 11 points and 5 assists in 20 minutes of play, but every Suns player was a negative in the +/- category.
Defense was the main culprit. It was far too easy for the Nuggets to get dunks and other points in the paint, as well as wide open perimeter shots. The Nuggets shot 53% from the field and held the rebounding edge 55-44. Suns defensive assistant coach Elston Turner obviously has a lot of work to do.
It shouldn't be surprising that this was a sloppy game, but the Suns have very little time to get things right before their season opener Monday, December 26th at home vs. the New Orleans Hornets.
- Sebastian Telfair had a shaky Suns debut, with 4 TOs to only 2 points and 2 assists in the first half before settling down a bit in the second half to finish with 6 points and 5 assists to go with his 4 TOs and 4 personal fouls on 2-7 FGs. Ronnie Price was more successful with 9 points, 4 assists and 3 TOs, and the Suns looked like a steadier team with him on the floor.
- Channing Frye's shot isn't there yet. He finished 0-6 from behind the arc and only 1-8 overall.
- Jared Dudley was solid. In 16 minutes of play, he scored 11 points and gathered 6 rebounds. The offense clearly ran better when he played than when Shannon Brown was on the floor.
- Brown struggled in his Suns debut, repeatedly taking questionable shots on his way to a 4-13 shooting, 5 TO night, though he did finish with 12 points and 5 rebounds.
- Hakim Warrick put up impressive offensive and rebound totals, with 14 and 6 in 25 minutes, but he also got roasted on defense and the Suns were -10 with him on the floor.
- Robin Lopez looked to have his bounce back and scored 10 points to go with 5 rebounds in 22 minutes, but he was another Suns big man who allowed the Nuggets interior players to have a field day.
- Markieff Morris acquitted himself OK for his first game out as a rookie. He fouled out in 27 minutes of play and missed both of his 3s, but did score 10 points and gather 8 rebounds.
- The Suns' transition defense was putrid. Time after time, the Nuggets had players leak out from Suns misses and turnovers to make easy baskets.
Obviously, the Suns have a lot of work left to do, especially on defense. When the starters were in, the Suns hung in but things went downhill as soon as the Nuggets' deep bench matched up with our bench. Sound familiar? I'm sure the mile high air didn't help a Suns team still working its way into shape either, not that this should be an excuse. The good news is that the Suns will get to show what they learned tonight when they face this same Nuggets squad on Thursday in Phoenix. If we see no improvement then, it will be reason for concern.
Update 12/20/11 9:23PM PST: Marcin Gortat reports via Twitter that he has a broken thumb: "Great start!!! Lost game and broken thumb!!! Awsome....last thing i need right now!!!!" (Hat tip to Toon Army Sun)