Too many turnovers put this one just out of reach

Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Tonight the Phoenix Suns took on the Denver Nuggets in a game with huge playoff implications for the NBA Western Conference playoff race. The Suns weren't able to overcome sloppy offense and 16 turnovers, and lost a close one against the Nuggets on the road 105-99.

In doing so, the Suns slip back into 10th place after the Utah Jazz won over the Golden State Warriors as well. the Denver Nuggets hold onto their 8th seed in the playoff race and push their win streak to six consecutive victories over the Suns.

The Nuggets were led by the lights out shooting of Aaron Afflalo who scored 30 points on 11-19 shooting and 5-9 from beyond the arc. Al Harrington also did his part off the bench scoring 23 points on 8-19 shooting and going 4-10 from long range.

For the Suns, it was Shannon Brown who led the team with 18 points, but it should also be mentioned he was usually responsible for guarding Afflalo, who was left open far too often. Steve Nash did his part, scoring 14 points and dishing out 11 assists, and Channing Frye had a nice game as well with his 13 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Although the Suns shot the ball more efficiently at 42% compared to 40% for the Nuggets, and also won the battle of the boards in a big way 66-54, the game ultimately was decided by the 16 turnovers the Suns committed which led to 26 points for the Nuggets.

This is a tough game to swallow, but the Suns play again tomorrow night at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. That game suddenly becomes much more important after the loss tonight which set the Suns back in their quest for the post season.

Hang in there Suns fans, it ain't over yet! Read on after the jump for a look at the game notes

Game Notes

First Quarter:

Koufos gets the start over McGee for Denver…Could be a good thing for Gortat

Four straight misses for the Suns to start the game.

Shannon Brown finally breaks the lid on the rim with the first bucket for the Suns

Frye with a big man block!

Nice post up by Jared Dudley to get the bucket and one…which he then misses

The Manimal works Frye down low to score the hoop plus get the foul

Koufos busted for the push on Gortat…his second foul. In comes McGee

Frye nails a three

McGee makes first dumb play of game by throwing Gortat for rebound…less that .30 sec after he enters

Brown hits a three now and Suns take a three point lead

Gortat now fouled by Faried on the rebound…Nuggs already in the penalty as Gortat is sent to the line where he hits 1 of 2

Rookie Jordan Hamilton making the most of his opportunity and has already scored 7 points in his first start for Denver

Suns up 13-11 halfway through the first quarter…Shannon Brown leading the Suns so far with 5 points

Gortat loses the rebound to Faried who then gets it to McGee for the dunk…Suns can’t get sloppy

Another Suns turnover and McGee dunks it to tie the game

Suns go on a 6-0 run to retake the lead 25-19…timeout Denver. Frye and Gortat both with 5 points and 5 rebounds a piece…Good work from the Suns front line so far!

Suns bench now trickling in as Childress replaces Dudley who already had 6 points and 2 rebounds. Harrington, Brewer, and Miller in for Faried, Afflalo, and Hamilton for Denver

Childress swats Brewer’s shot to end the first quarter…Very solid start for the Suns on offense and defense

Suns lead 29-21 at the end of the 1st quarter. Suns shooting 50%, Nuggets 33%. Suns with 22rbs, Nuggets with 12rbs. Suns with 5 TO’s, Nuggets with 0 TO’s. Frye and Brown leading the Suns with 7 points each, Jordan Hamilton leading the Nuggets with 7 points.

Second Quarter:

Suns bench unit starts the 2nd quarter with a defensive 3 sec. tech and then a turnover…They have to play smart

Redd picks up where he left off in Utah hitting his first attempt for 2

Suns defense looking slow to rotate and Denver making them pay…Denver cuts the Suns lead to 4

Crazy call by the refs calling a foul on Miller and then erasing the foul and giving it to Denver before finally giving it back to the Suns

Tough shot by Redd that doesn’t drop

Telfair snaps the net to keep the Suns up by 6

Suns second unit looking better now defensively, and forces the Denver offense to commit a turnover.

Redd misses another shot…maybe he’s cooling off

Harrington with back to back buckets to cut the Suns’ lead to 2

Turnover Suns that turns into a fast break for the Nuggs. Brewer is fouled and sent to the line where he ties it up

Dudley and Frye in for Childress and Morris

Afflalo hits a fade-away to take the lead…Redd works his way to the free throw line. Redd misses both

Nash and Gortat come in for Telfair and Lopez

Harrington nails a three and Denver is up by 5

Dudley gets a 2 on the other end but then Afflalo answers with a three

Afflalo hits a quick layup. He’s getting to the rim too easily…Suns need to do a better job at tightening up their D. Nuggets up 45-39 now with a little less than 5 minutes left in the first half.

Nash with a much needed 3 to stop the bleeding

Nash hits another bucket sensing the need to score

Brown hits a three and the Suns retake the lead

Watching Frye I’m really impressed with his attention to defense and rebounding in this game

Suns and Nuggets tied 52-52 at the end of the 1st half. Suns shooting 49%, Nuggets 39%. Suns with 34rbs, Nuggets with 24rbs. Suns with 9 TO’s, Nuggets with 2 TO’s. Dudley leading the Suns with 12 points, Afflalo leading the Nuggets with 17 points.

Third Quarter:

Afflalo hits a three to start the third quarter, Brown must stay on him as hot as he is.

Gortat hits a pick and roll lay up for two

Missed basket leads to transition jam by the Manimal…The Suns have to stay focused and committed to defense

Afflalo is left open again and drains another three…Where was Brown? Denver now up 60-54. Time out Suns

Suns with yet another turnover, already their 2nd of the 2nd quarter and 11th of the game…Too sloppy and it’s costing the Suns big

Gortat picking up a lot of fouls now with three in the quarter…Lopez may have to come in soon

Aaron Afflalo is absolutely scorching the Suns…They need to stop him if they have any chance of winning this game!

Dudley with a big 3!

Brown hits a jumper to pull within 2

Suns and Nuggets going back and forth

Suns losing the battle of the boards so far this quarter

Another turnover this time by Brown

Suns and Nuggets keeping it close…You get the feeling the Suns should be winning handily but the turnovers are killing them

Nuggets lead 78-75 at the end of the 3rd quarter. Suns shooting 47%, Nuggets 38%. Suns with 48rbs, Nuggets with 41rbs. Suns with 14 TO’s, Nuggets with 5 TO’s. Brown leading the Suns with 18 points, Afflalo leading the Nuggets with 27 points.

Fourth Quarter:

Suns bench in to start the 4th quarter

Miller takes Telfair on the dribble to score at the rim

Harrington also killing the Suns from deep…Hits another three to give the Nuggets a 6 point lead

Morris with his hands down on Harrington who knocks down yet another triple in his face. Hand down man down…

Redd hits a much needed 3…Suns down 1

Childress with an offensive putback

Morris looked to be in position for a charge on Harrington but the refs call it a block

Redd with a nice jumper bank shot and the Suns are up 3

Suns now on a 13-1 run…Bench doing its job!

Suns lead 94-90 midway through the 4th quarter

Suns starters coming back in…Need to finish it out strong!

Lopez turns the ball over…Lopez has been playing well defensively so Gentry may leave him in

Faried with a massive dink

Nash with the BIG 3!!!

Suns in a zone defense

Faried with a big alley-oop after getting behind the defense in transition

Gortat comes in for Lopez and fumbles a beautiful pass out of bounds from Nash

Miller gets to the rim to cut the Suns lead to 1 with just over 2 minutes remaining

Nash with a miss but grabs his own rebound and misses another 3 but misses that one as well. Gortat gets the offensive rebound (his 12th overall) and the suns keep possession.

Frye with a bad shot under shot clock pressure and Miller goes to the line after being fouled on the fast break

Miller hits both free throws to give Denver a 1 point lead

Afflalo with a dagger 3 from the corner to give the Nuggets a four point lead with :47 sec left.

Frye misses a three…that should do it

Nuggets win 105-99. Suns shoot 42% Nuggets shoot 40%. Suns with 66 rebounds, Nuggets with 54 rebounds. Suns with 16 TO’s, Nuggets with 5 TO’s. Brown led the Suns with 18 points, Afflalo led Denver with 30 points.

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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.


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?

Additional Game Links:

Suns vs Nuggets coverage

Suns vs Nuggets preview

Denver Stiffs

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