When the news broke that Steve Nash and Grant Hill would sit tonight in an attempt to rest them during the second game of three in three nights, then the Nuggets started the game 10-0 against the Suns, it was easy to see where this contest was headed. It ended up playing out that way, as the Nuggets rolled to a 109-92 win, but the Suns made things interesting for awhile, even tying the game up early in the second half.
Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 20 and 17 points, respectively, and Chris Andersen, best known for his enormous assortment of freakish tattoos, scored 16 in 22 minutes in the absence of Nene Hilario and Timofey Mozgov. The Nuggets exceeded their per game scoring average of 104 points, feasting on Suns turnovers and converting them to easy baskets. We have seen all of this before.
Ronnie Price and Michael Redd got the starts for the Suns with Nash and Hill sitting, and Redd played a great game, hitting 3 3-pointers on his way to 20 points. Price......eh, not so much: 5 turnovers, 4 personal fouls and only 2-11 shooting.
The brightest spot for the Suns was Markieff Morris, who played with confidence and aggressiveness and ended up with a career-high 21 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Morris also continued his problem with getting into foul trouble, which will limit his playing time if he can't get it rectified. He fouled out after 28 minutes tonight.
Ugly game, no Nash or Hill. At least the Suns got a glimmer of hope from their rookie and their reclamation project. That's something, right?
With each team missing two starters and the Suns on the road after a late game last night, not much can be discovered about either team from this game. The Nuggets have superior depth to the Suns, and are better able to plug in backups and not face a huge drop off in play, but we already knew that.
When healthy and playing at full force, the Nuggets are a team that can do some damage in the playoffs, while the Suns are among the few worst teams in the conference. Nothing we saw tonight changed that one bit.
The second game of the Suns back to back to back this week takes them to Denver to face a banged-up Nuggets squad. George Karl's Nuggets are missing leading scorer Danilo Gallinari and leading rebounder Nene Hilario to injury, and have won only 2 of 6 games this month.
Steve Nash and the Suns will attempt to bounce back from cold long-range shooting against the Warriors in Oakland last night. Suns starters shot only 4-18 from behind the arc, and the offense again stagnated down the stretch as the Suns fell to 13th place in the Western Conference with a 102-96 loss.
As the Suns near the halfway point of the season (this will be their 29th game out of 66) and the trade deadline is only a month away, they don't have much time left to make a move in the standings before it's time to focus even more attention on next season, and possibly make more roster moves.
Will the Suns give us something to love in this game on Valentine's Day? Or will Suns fans take a walk down lonely street to Heartbreak Hotel?
The Nuggets are the league's highest scoring team at 103.9 points per game, and play with the fastest pace. Suns fans who have been watching their matchups with the Nuggets are well-acquainted with the Nuggets' fast, explosive offense. In the last three regular season games between the teams, the Nuggets put up 138, 132 and 116 points, then ran the Suns into the ground twice this pre-season for good measure.
Injuries to Gallinari and Nene will help the Suns cause, but the Nuggets are still a dangerous team. They just snapped a 5-game losing streak but those losses were to the Lakers, Blazers, Rockets, Mavs and Warriors, all of whom the Suns are looking up at in the standings.
This will be another game in which the Suns' best chance will be to keep the pace moderate and limit the turnovers that the Nuggets can convert to running opportunities. The Suns simply don't have the athletes to get into a track meet with the Nuggets, especially in the thin air of Denver and having played the previous night.