Well it's all tied up after the first half 52-52. The Suns should be winning this game but the story so far has been the 9 TO's and the poor play of the bench. The Suns are winning the rebounds though so if they can take better care of the ball and if the second unit can step up they should be able to win this one.

Here we go!




What else is there to say besides the Suns really need this win...Let's get it!


Denver Nuggets 105, Phoenix Suns 99 If the Phoenix Suns plan on reaching the playoffs despite a brutal closing schedule, they must take care of the games against teams fighting with them for the...

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Go Suns!!!

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Tonight the 28-26 Phoenix Suns, who currently occupy the 9th spot in the Western Conference, will take on the 29-25 Denver Nuggets, currently occupying the 8th and final seed in the NBA's Western Conference playoff race. If the Suns can win tonight in Denver, and receive a little help from Houston by losing to the Los Angeles Lakers tonight as well, then Phoenix will move into a three-way tie with the Nuggets and Rockets for the 8th seed.

The Suns have been on a hot streak lately in their push for playoff contention, winning their last three consecutive games and 16 of their last 23 in all. The Nuggets on the other hand have been playing a bit less stellar lately, but that's in large part due to a seven-game road trip which they just ended on Wednesday with a loss to New Orleans to go 4-3 over that stretch.

With only 12 games left including tonight's, there simply isn't much room for error for the Suns. I won't go so far as to call this game a "must win", but it's certainly a high stakes game that could either propel them into the heart of the playoff hunt, or set them back significantly. After a huge win against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, a win tonight against the Nuggets would give the Suns a huge boost to both their playoff chances as well as their confidence in themselves and their team as a whole.

Do the Suns have what it takes to get a big win in Denver tonight? Read on after the jump for a breakdown of what to expect in tonight's match-up.

Here's a look at the Nuggets:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Ty Lawson 49 35.3 6.0 12.5 47.8 1.1 3.3 34.4 2.9 3.5 82.0 0.9 2.9 3.8 6.8 2.7 1.4 0.1 1.6 15.9
Danilo Gallinari 33 31.3 4.7 10.9 42.7 1.4 4.3 31.9 4.5 5.2 87.6 0.7 4.2 4.9 2.6 1.5 1.1 0.5 1.9 15.2
Al Harrington 54 28.1 5.5 12.3 44.9 1.4 4.6 30.5 1.9 3.0 65.6 1.2 5.2 6.4 1.5 1.8 0.9 0.2 2.9 14.4
Arron Afflalo 50 32.7 4.8 10.7 45.1 1.4 3.6 38.5 3.3 4.1 79.2 0.6 2.4 3.0 2.2 1.3 0.6 0.3 2.2 14.4
JaVale McGee 49 26.4 5.1 9.4 54.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.3 2.8 48.9 2.9 5.5 8.5 0.6 1.6 0.6 2.3 2.9 11.5
Wilson Chandler 7 29.6 4.4 11.0 40.3 0.4 1.7 25.0 1.4 1.7 83.3 0.9 5.0 5.9 2.4 2.6 0.9 0.9 2.6 10.7
Andre Miller 54 27.7 3.7 8.3 45.2 0.3 1.3 24.3 2.2 2.7 80.7 0.8 2.5 3.3 6.4 2.6 1.0 0.1 2.0 10.0
Kenneth Faried 34 21.1 3.6 6.1 59.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.4 3.4 70.4 2.9 4.3 7.1 0.6 1.1 0.7 1.0 2.5 9.6
Corey Brewer 47 22.0 3.4 8.1 42.2 0.6 2.2 26.5 1.7 2.5 68.6 0.8 2.0 2.8 1.4 1.0 1.2 0.3 1.8 9.1
Rudy Fernandez 31 22.9 3.2 7.3 44.0 1.3 3.9 32.8 1.0 1.4 69.8 0.3 1.8 2.1 2.4 1.3 1.0 0.1 1.2 8.6
Timofey Mozgov 39 16.4 2.3 4.5 51.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.9 1.4 66.7 1.3 3.0 4.3 0.5 1.2 0.3 0.9 2.0 5.5
Kosta Koufos 36 16.3 2.4 3.9 59.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.1 61.5 1.9 3.3 5.3 0.2 0.8 0.5 0.9 1.9 5.4
Chris Andersen 32 15.2 1.8 3.4 54.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.6 2.6 61.0 1.5 3.1 4.6 0.2 0.5 0.6 1.4 1.6 5.3
Jordan Hamilton 20 9.9 1.8 4.1 42.7 0.8 1.9 42.1 0.1 0.3 40.0 0.4 2.0 2.4 0.6 0.6 0.1 0.1 0.7 4.4
Julyan Stone 18 8.4 0.7 1.6 44.8 0.1 0.6 18.2 0.4 0.6 72.7 0.3 0.9 1.2 1.6 0.6 0.3 0.3 0.9 2.0


As you can see, the Nuggets are a fairly well-balanced team who like the Suns lack a real go-to scorer, but who have many viable options and contributors who can potentially catch fire on any given night and carry their team. But unlike the Suns, their most prolific scorer is also their point guard, Ty Lawson, who is as quick as they come at beating the defense and driving to the basket, but who also does a good job of distributing the ball to his teammates around him. Other than Lawson, the Nuggets can count on Afflalo, McGee, Harrington, Chandler, Faried, Miller, and Brewer to help them by playing significant minutes, and making meaningful contributions on a nightly basis.


Injuries:

Suns: Out - Grant Hill (Knee)

Nuggets: Out - Danilo Gallinari (broken thumb), Rudy Fernandez (back); Questionable - Wilson Chandler (groin)


Key Match-Ups:

Steve Nash vs. Ty Lawson - Ty Lawson is like lightning in a bottle with his 5'10" strong frame and super fast speed. Lawson can use his small yet powerful and fast physique to power into the lane, or to create space and shoot from outside. He is also a skilled passer with good court vision who often creates passing opportunities by driving the lane. However, Steve Nash is still playing at arguably the highest level of any true point guard in the league, and continues to lead the league in both assists and also in field goal percentage among guards. (Advantage - Suns)

Shannon Brown vs. Aaron Afflalo - In the absence of Grant Hill, Shannon Brown will likely be given the task of stopping Aaron Afflalo, the Nugget's most potent scoring wing. Afflalo is averaging more than 14 points per game on a team who shares the ball and scoring responsibility as well as anyone, and stopping him will likely be one of the main focuses of the Suns' defense tonight. Shannon Brown will need to play well defensively, but one of the best ways he can limit Afflalo's effectiveness is by making him work hard on the other end of the court. Brown will need to play smart and effective on both ends of the floor tonight, something he struggles to do at times. (Advantage - Nuggets)

Channing Frye vs. Kenneth Faried - This will be one of the more intriguing match-ups of tonight's games. With Gallinari out due to an injury, Faried will get the start and he has been playing extremely well for Denver, averaging around 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block over the last five games. Frye on the other hand had a relatively slow start to the season, but has since come on strong on both ends of the floor. Frye is starting to play like more of a big man lately instead of just standing on the 3 point line on offense, and over the last five games he has averaged 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. This will be a match-up to keep an eye on tonight as both players have the potential to make a significant impact for their respective teams. However, I have to give Frye the edge here with his better overall game and experience (Advantage - Suns)

Marcin Gortat vs JaVale McGee - McGee is often criticized for his bizarre plays and questionable decision making at times, but he has given the Nuggets tremendous size, length, and athleticism in the post after trading away Nene and his hefty contract in order to acquire him. McGee is a legit 7-footer with a ridiculous 7'6" wingspan and great hops to go with it. McGee's biggest downside is what's lacking between his ears, making mistakes and poor judgements that often nullify many of the things he does so well. Gortat on the other hand is almost the opposite. While he is also a legit 7-footer, he isn't in the same league as McGee in terms of his physical gifts or raw athleticism. Instead, Gortat has a great understanding of the game and has worked hard to improve his footwork and post skills to maximize his extremely agile and mobile frame. Gortat has proven to be a much more consistent and efficient player overall, and I believe he should gain the upper hand on McGee in tonight's match-up. (Advantage - Suns)

Suns Bench vs. Nuggets Bench - In my opinion, this could be the biggest key to the game tonight with both teams having a very deep bench that is crucial their success. The Suns' bench has really come on strong lately due in large part to the play of Robin Lopez, Michael Redd, and Sebastian Telfair...while also getting meaningful contributions from Josh Childress and Markieff Morris as well. However, the Nuggets bench also brings both talent and experience behind Al Harrington, Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler (questionable), Kosta Koufus, Chris Anderson, and Timofey Mozgov. Assuming all of the players listed above play tonight, I have to give the edge here to Denver based mostly on their more experienced point guard play. However, if the Suns bench comes out hot this could certainly go the other way. (Advantage - Nuggets)


Regardless of the outcome, tonight's game will have huge playoff implications for both teams. Denver is in the position to hold serve against the surging Suns at home tonight, retain their spot as the 8th seed, and create some distance between themselves and both the Suns and the Jazz who are hot on their trail. However, if the Suns can pull off another big win tonight on the road against a fellow Western Conference opponent, they will significantly improve their chances of making the playoffs and could actually move into a tie for the 8th seed depending on the outcome of the Rockets/Lakers game.

Will the Suns have what it takes to make this final push for the post season?


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Hey, I do the best I can!  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns are playing well. Better than they've played all season long. It took this team a while to gel, but now they are winning games they should win and hitting their stride when the games matter the most.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

It should. Since Alvin Gentry took over as the Phoenix Suns coach a little more than three seasons ago, his teams have played better and won more games in the second half than in the first half.

2009-10, Gentry's first full season as head coach

In 2009-2010, the Suns finished on a 28-7 run to vault all the way to 3rd in the West after starting the season only 26-21 despite featuring 2 all-stars, league-leading 3-shooting and a former dunk champion in their lineup. That season featured what turned out to be 3 different teams. The one that started 14-3 did it with smoke, mirrors and a great offense hiding a horrible, horrible defense. The poor defense and rebounding caught up with them, resulting in a 12-18 midseason stretch. I remember our vaunted blog leader writing an article in January that showed these two stretches, concluding that the latter was longer and therefore more indicative of the team's future.

Gentry, Nash and Hill preached patience during the bad stretch, saying they just needed to find that right combination in the lineup. The bench was playing poorly. Soon after that, Gentry found it by moving Robin Lopez into the starting lineup and Channing Frye to the bench. Suddenly, the starting unit had defense and the bench had offense.

On January 28, 2010, the team as a whole ramped up their games for the stretch run and ran out to a 28-7 finish that included offense, defense and rebounding.

2010-2011

That season was a struggle, highlighted by a big midseason trade of half the lineup. But Gentry found a sweet spot once again with a 10-man rotation that vaulted the Suns to a 17-7 record from January 12 - March 4.

This run could legitimately have lasted through the end of the season and into the playoffs, but Channing Frye inexplicably separated his own shoulder in a game against Oklahoma City (Durant was in the vicinity but no foul was called) and the Suns' season was effectively over. They just didn't have the horses to finish the job without a healthy Frye in the lineup.

2011-12

Here we are again. It should be no surprise that Gentry has found the sweet spot in the Suns rotation. After starting the season a paltry 12-19, the Suns are currently on a 16-7 run since February 19, 2012. With 12 games to go, the Suns are in a dogfight for a playoff spot.

If you factor in the late start to the season, the point in time at which the Suns started to gel if eerily close to the prior 2 seasons under Gentry.

So why does it take so long for Gentry's teams to gel? You can blame roster turnover for part of it, but not all. This year, the Suns returned the same starting lineup from the end of last season. Fully 8 guys are in at least their second year with the Suns, if not a lot longer: Steve Nash (8 years), Grant Hill (5), Robin Lopez (4), Jared Dudley (4), Channing Frye (3), Marcin Gortat (2), Hakim Warrick (2), Josh Childress (2).

That's all 5 of the starting lineup, 1 regular rotation player and 2 bit players. The coaching staff is a veteran one as well. Gentry has been here 8 years total (4.5 as an assistant), while everyone other than Elston Turner is in their 4th.

The key here is the bench. In his 3 full seasons as Suns coach, Gentry has stubbornly stuck with a minimum 10-man rotation in every single game. Sometimes he plays 11 or 12 guys, even. That means he needs to find 5-7 guys who can predictably play well every night.

Some of that is keeping the minutes down for their best players: Steve Nash and Grant Hill. The backup PG and SF are going to get minutes. And some of that is a roster full of different, but equally middling talent after those two. Marcin Gortat, their third best player, is really good but is he that much better than an energetic Lopez? Channing Frye is good but doesn't always bring his A-game on offense, which makes him interchangeable with rookie Markieff Morris. And so on down the line.

So Gentry has to spend half a season to find the sweet spot on his bench each year - the best combination of players and minutes for 5 of 8 guys sitting there next to him after the opening tip. Only one of who turned out to be the "best 5" this year was on the team a year ago.

We need to give Gentry credit for finding a winning combination every season, despite turnover on his roster and less-than-stellar talent.

28-7 finish in 2010

17-7 run in 2011 before Frye's devastating injury

16-7 this season, with 12 games to go.

Let's keep this ball rolling, and give Gentry credit for making it happen!


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