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Denver Nuggets begin crucial four-game home stand tonight vs Phoenix Suns

Harrison Wind Avatar
November 20, 2015


After going 1-2 on a three-game road trip the Denver Nuggets return home to Pepsi Center to take on the Phoenix Suns, a team they lost to 105-81 in Phoenix just a little under one week ago. Denver’s road trip provided them with mixed results as the Nuggets got run off the court in Phoenix after defeating the Houston Rockets the night before, then cruised to a 115-98 win over the New Orleans Pelicans before dropping Wednesday night’s game in San Antonio 109-98.

                                                 Regular Season Game 13
Suns (6-5) @ Nuggets (6-6)
7 p.m. MT on Altitude, 104.3FM


Jokic emerging

For the Nuggets, rookie big man Nikola Jokic had his coming out party against the Spurs frontline that featured Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge and David West to a tune of 23 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks in a season-high 32 minutes. With J.J. Hickson‘s minutes likely on the decline and Joffrey Lauvergne not yet cleared to return form a low back strain, more minutes and even a potential starting spot could be up for grab and Jokic seems like the natural fit. I chronicled his career- game in San Antonio here.

Mudiay’s shooting struggles continue

Fellow rookie, No. 7 overall pick Emmanuel Mudiay has seen his shooting percentages plummet as of late, but the point guard is still distributing the ball to a tune of 6.4 dimes per game this season. Against the Spurs, Mudiay shot just 2-12 from the field, lowering his field goal percentages on the year to 28.7 percent. He didn’t attempt a three in San Antonio and has hoisted just one attempt in his last two games after going 1-7 from 3-point range last weekend in Phoenix. Mudiay has gone just 4-27 from 3-point land over his last eight games, after converting 8-17 threes through the Nuggets first four games of the season. He’s also shooting just 15-55 (27.3 percent) from mid-range according to NBA.com, an extremely inefficient percentage considering how often Mudiay relies on his in-between game. Over the past five games, 40 percent of Mudiay’s attempts have come from mid-range.

Harris stays reliable 

Since Randy Foye went down with a hamstring injury in the preseason Gary Harris has taken the starting two-guard spot and entrenched himself there for the foreseeable future. He initially did so because of his perimeter defense, something that he’s been known for and excelled at over the course of his young NBA career, but it’s his offensive production that’s excited the Nuggets coaching staff and kept him in the lineup. After a forgettable rookie campaign plagued with inconsistent minutes and never quite knowing when he was going to be called upon, Harris has thrived with a more constant role under head coach Michael Malone.

Harris is finishing well at the rim, converting on 57.6 percent of his attempts in the restricted area, according to NBA.com and his shot, which will undoubtably make or break his role in this league has been reliable. Harris is still passing up open looks when he should be pulling the trigger, but when he does decide to let it fly, the ball has gone through the net consistently. Harris is converting on 43.8 percent of his 3-pointers and 8-14 (57.1 percent) from the corners where he can make a living camping out and receiving the ball off of Emmanuel Mudiay and Danilo Gallinari penetrations.

Gallinari lacks consistency

The next step in Gallinari’s development is addressing his lack of consistency. After dropping a season-high 32 points in 36 minutes in New Orleans, Gallo responded with a 9-point showing in San Antonio on just 2-9 shooting. Similarly, after carrying the Nuggets for stretches at home against Houston and finishing with 27 points on just nine shots, Gallinari finished with just 8 points in Denver’s blowout loss in Phoenix.

Those two no-shows from Gallinari both came on the second half of back-to-backs on the road. Is Gallo not completely there from a physical standpoint? Doubtful, because he’s produced before when playing two games in two nights like he did in Golden State earlier this season to a tune of 25 points on 13 shots after playing the night before in Utah. Maybe it’s a mental thing for Gallo where he’s struggling to bring that same intensity and attitude night in and night out. We will see where his head is at especially during Denver’s upcoming stretch of games where they play eight times against teams with playoff aspirations in the next 14 days. 

Injury Report

Joffrey Lauvergne – Out – Low back strain

Wilson Chandler – Out – Right hip arthroscopic surgery

Jusuf Nurkic – Out – Left patellar tendon repair

Projected Starters
Nuggets Suns

Emmanuel Mudiay (R)

Gary Harris

Danilo Gallinari

Kenneth Faried

J.J. Hickson

Eric Bledsoe

Brandon Knight

P.J. Tucker

Markieff Morris

Tyson Chandler

Credit: Dennis Köhler
Credit: Dennis Köhler


Phoenix Suns 

The Suns are coming off of a 103-97 loss at home to the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 18th and should be well-rested for tonight’s matchup in Denver. The Suns are of course led by the backcourt pairing of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight who combined for 44 points against Chicago and 40 points when they hosted Denver just six days ago. Phoenix was able to easily defeat the Nuggets, despite not having starting power forward Markieff Morris, who should be good-to-go tonight.

The key to stopping Phonix is stopping that dynamic backcourt. Bledsoe is currently second in the league in drives at 12.5 per game, according to NBA.com and Synergy and keeping him out of the lane will be key. Knight on the other hand is fourth in the league in pull up attempts per game at 8.8, trailing just Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and Carmelo Anthony.

The Suns will look to free up Bledsoe and Knight off of Tyson Chandler pick and rolls; he will roll to the rim and score off that action an efficient 65 percent of the time, according to NBA.com and Synergy. That’s eight best in the league based on players who have rolled the rim more than 10 times this season. If the Suns guards can’t convert off those high ball screens or hit Chandler at the rim off the roll, they look to kick it out and find shooters from deep.

Phoenix attempts 25.8 threes per game, ninth-most league wide and has capable shooters in Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer who are both above 35 percent on the year. P.J. Tucker and Morris aren’t shy about letting it fly either although they both have struggled form deep this season.



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