When: Wednesday October 23, 2013, 6:00 PM local time (9:00 EST)
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Watch/Listen: TV: Radio: 620 KTAR
Denver pulverized the Suns in the last game of the 2012-13 season, signaling the end of the Michael Beasley era. Fitting that it happened in the mile high city... The final score of 118-98 wasn't even reflective of the savage beating the Suns were subjected to as the curtain closed on one of the most wretched seasons in franchise history. Yeah, that was fun.
Wilson Chandler scored 13 of his game high 21 points in the first quarter as the Nuggets ran off to a 33-20 lead. They extended this lead to 26 at halftime and led by as much as 29 in the third quarter before letting off the gas and coasting to an easy victory. Kendall Marshall had 14 assists in defeat, but 12 of them came in the second half of a blowout.
Denver Nuggets: 2-3 (Preseason)
Points per game: 95.0 Points allowed: 99.8
The Nuggets bid farewell to Corey Brewer, Andre Iguodala and Kosta Koufous, as well as head coach George Karl. Karl ended his tenure with a winning record in all eight seasons in Denver, including five straight 50 win seasons - excluding the lockout shortened season, but ultimately fell victim to his team's feckless playoff performances. Although he did reach the Western Conference Finals in the 2008-09 season, he also orchestrated seven first round exits. Seven. In eight years.
The Nuggets have added Darrell Arthur, Randy Foye, J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson to the fold with Brian Shaw taking over the coaching reigns. The team returns Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried, among others, and promises to be competitive in the Western Conference again this year (which will ultimately lead to another first round exit). The Suns will host Denver in their fifth regular season game, just 16 days after this contest, so this should be a good game to get familiarized with the new look Nuggets.
Five Nuggets have averaged 20+ minutes so far this preseason (Hickson, Lawson, JaVale McGee, Evan Fournier and Foye) out of a roster of 14. With less players than the Suns (17) to apportion minutes to every Nugget is averaging double digit minutes and all but three have appeared in all five games. Hickson has led Denver in scoring with 11.4 points per game on 59% shooting. The Nuggets are averaging 20 turnovers per game, even more than the Suns 19.2... Expect a sloppy game. Also, expect to see 20 year old second year player Evan Fournier get some more burn.
Phoenix Suns: 4-2
Points per game: 102.3 Points allowed: 95.2
The Suns are gearing up for a frenetic season pace by scoring a blistering 102.3 points per game... right? Well, take away the lopsided 130-89 victory over Maccabi Haifa and the Suns are only averaging 96.8 points against actual NBA teams. The scoring totals have whittled from 96 to 90 to 88 over the last three performances. Not the up tempo offense we're hoping to see in the upcoming campaign, but it's just preseason.
In contrast to the Nuggets five players, only Eric Bledsoe has averaged more than 20 minutes per game for the Suns. In those minutes he has given reasons for optimism with (rounded) averages of 12 points, three rebounds, six assists and three steals per game. The competition at some positions (e.g. small forward with P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris and Gerald Green) has made minute allocation more turbid to begin the season. What is seemingly more transparent is that Kendall Marshall may do a lot of watching from the sidelines considering he is 13th on the roster in minutes played (52), just one ahead of Ish Smith (51).
The Suns are still basking in the glow of an 88-76 triumph over Oklahoma City in which they accomplished the amazing feat of shooting under 40% from the field, less than 25% from three point range (on 26 attempts) and south of 65% from the charity stripe while still managing to win by double digits. Seems like a fairly infrequent occurrence... But that type of game is exactly what the preseason is for.
What To Watch For:
Last chance for the players auditioning for roster spots to showcase their talents. I won't be surprised if the Suns limit Bledsoe, Dragic (tweaked ankle) and other probable starters to avoid the last preseason game injury jinx. Compound that with the fact this is a back-to-back set and I fully expect some of the DNP's from last night to see playing time.
The Final Word(s):
The Suns have a chance to finish the preseason on a high note with a 5-2 record. Since it may take them until December to duplicate that win total for regular season victories they might as well rack up the W's now and not let the paucity that awaits temper their enthusiasm.
Starting with the obvious, neither the Phoenix Suns nor the Oklahoma City Thunder cared less about winning the preseason game than getting chance to look at some players before cut down day to a max of 15 per roster.
This game was more about getting a look at some guys on each roster. The game was sloppy as a result: 38% shooting for the Suns (23% on 26 three-point attempts) and 38% for the Thunder (10% on 19 three point attempts). The energy vacillated between high and low, and once again Hornacek went deep into the bench by playing 13 of 16 available players.
Even the players who didn't see court time will get their chance tomorrow night, on a back-to-back in the high altitude of Denver. Dionte Christmas, James Nunnally and Kendall Marshall were healthy scratches while Archie Goodwin and Ish Smith got some good run in the second half.
Since the focus of the game was on players, let's review them:
If he could just fix that jumper - he doesn't even get rotation on it - he could potentially be an All-Star type player. Even while going 0-4 on open threes and 1-4 on early midrange shots, Bledsoe still put up 15 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals in just 28 minutes of play. His defense on his young counterpart - Reggie Jackson - was good enough to basically shut Jackson down. Jackson got most of his 18 points against diminutive Ish Smith. This was clearly Bledsoe's best game of the preseason.
If he could fix that basketball IQ - being in the right place at the right time on defense and off the ball - he could be a really good player. Hella athlete put down a couple of monster, super-max dunks we haven't seen since the apostrophe left town and made 3 three-pointers in the first half to help the Suns to a big lead. Overall, Green had 15 points in 18 minutes and, while not a great defender, didn't let Jeremy Lamb find his missing confidence.
If he could move that body faster in driving situations - seriously, I could have cooked some eggs in the time it took for him to drive to the basket a couple of times - you might call this one of Channing's best games since coming back from the year and a half out of basketball. He scored, somehow, on those drives, poured in 12 points overall, made a 3 and pulled down 9 rebounds and blocked a shot to help the Suns win the game.
If he could make a corner 3 on a regular basis, he'd be a regular on any team in the NBA. The guy just hustles and so far this year it's contagious. Jeff Hornacek is the third coach in 12 months to find it impossible to sit P.J. down. Tucker played 30 minutes and scored 13 points, had 4 rebounds and 3 steals and a block. A typical Tucker game.
If Archie could make his shots and/or start faster, he'd be a rookie of the year candidate. Unfortunately, his shot is really bad - he twists in the air as he rises off the ground - so he's only a threat to drive/dish at this point unless he goes on a hot streak like in summer league. Still, he picked it up and poured in 11 fourth-quarter points on a steal/FB/dunk, drives and putbacks (one monster putback dunk where he rose over everyone - at least 3 other players - to slam home a Suns miss).
If only they could be merged into one, the Suns would be in great shape at center for a decade. Gortat, Plumlee and Len all played well tonight. Gortat had 4 points, 5 rebounds and 5 blocks in only 17 minutes, while Plumlee hustled to 6 and 3 in 22 minutes and Len grabbed 3 rebounds, blocked a shot and had a nice assist in 10 minutes. Plumlee looked every bit as good, to my eyes, as OKC rookie Steven Adams (12th overall this year) right now - both are hustlers who make their gravy on putbacks and hustle. Plumlee had some nice drives in traffic, but missed several shots at the finish. Len plays with an 'athletic stance', meaning he was on the balls of his feet and ready to move all the time. He moves well in every direction, though right now he moves too much (4 fouls in 10 minutes). His arms are so long, he twice grabbed rebounds in traffic just by outreaching everyone. And, he can box out and finish the rebound with TWO HANDS. He got some quality time and showed good flashes of the future as a quality #5 overall pick. His ceiling is higher than Adams, but Adams is more ready to contribute right now.
If he only had size, and a jumper, and ability to score at the rim, and defend... this wasn't Ish's night.
The Morris brothers were hit and miss. While Markieff was good last week against Sacramento, he went 0-5 before getting ejected in the second quarter for a flagrant-2 foul. And while Marcus was terrible last week against Sac, he had 7 points (on 3-8 shooting), 5 rebounds and an assist and steal in 25 minutes. Good but not great.
Hey there Diante! Here's hoping you make the Thunder roster this year, but tonight was not one of your best nights. Garrett had 6 points and 3 assists in 24 minutes, but only shot 2-7 from the field.
That's my recap folks. Read. Digest. Discuss.