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Monster game from Randy Foye, Denver's shorthanded bench leads Nuggets past Phoenix Suns

An Nguyen Avatar
December 24, 2015

 

The Denver Nuggets get what may be their best win of the season so far as they beat the Suns, on the road, on the second game of a back-to-back with just 10 bodies on the active roster, 104-96. Incredible fight from the team and one has to be grinning ear to ear about the superb job head coach Mike Malone has been doing with this mash unit.

THE RUNDOWN

First Quarter – Starters: Randy Foye, Gary Harris, Kostas Papanikolaou, Mike Miller, Kenneth Faried

Malone’s small ball lineup was on full display tonight and ended up being a stroke of genius by the coach as it took away the Suns’ biggest strength: the perimeter. The team switched everything and held the Suns to just two 3-point attempts all quarter.

Lacking the usual playmakers ended up being a blessing in disguise as the Nuggets seemed more committed to ball movement than usual. Hopefully the injured players saw the effect it had and it rubs off in their own play. This is the Nuggets team basketball we envisioned, something not seen since Carmelo Anthony was traded.

The Nuggets finished the first quarter with 11 assists on 14 made baskets. Would love to see this for the rest of the season and beyond.

Darrell Arthur came in and provided an instant spark off the bench hitting his first four shots, including one from beyond the arc. He and Randy Foye led all scorers with nine early on.

End of first: Nuggets up 33-21.

Second Quarter – Starters: Randy Foye, Will Barton, Kostas Papanikolaou, Darrell Arthur, Nikola Jokic

Jokic got the second quarter started with a rare three-pointer, a very encouraging sight for the future. His 3-point shot is the key to whether or not he can mesh will with Jusuf Nurkic.

The Nuggets kept playing well in the first six minutes of the quarter, but slowly became complacent with a big lead and curiously stopped sharing the ball. After having a 22-point lead in the quarter Denver allowed the Suns to creep back to within just six points. The lead shrunk as the Nuggets turned the ball over with five seconds left in the half, and gave up a open corner three on the other end. These meltdowns have become an all too familiar sight.

End of second: Nuggets up 56-50.

Third Quarter – Starters: Foye, Harris, Papanikolaou, Miller, Faried

Jeff Hornacek adjusted to the Nuggets’ smallball lineup by coming out of the half substituting Suns big man Alex Len for guard Ronnie Price. Interesting adjustment from the coach. It paid off as the Nuggets lost the remainder of their lead in just three minutes flat as Foye decided the optimal offense for the Nuggets is him jacking up early-in-the-shot-clock threes.

The Nuggets failed to avoid the Suns’ gameplan as they were once again goaded into a jump-shooting battle, lacking aggression and hitting their first free throw of the game with just 1:30 left in the third quarter. If the Nuggets hope to become a truly great team they have to be one that imposes their identity on opponents, not the other way around.

Foye continued looking for his own offense until his shots finally started falling. The results worked tonight, but reluctantly — even if it worked — Foye jacking up threes is not a good game-plan and this will only further encourage him. Denver winning or losing the game should definitely not be depended solely on Foye.

End of third: Nuggets up 79-72

Fourth Quarter – Starters: Foye, Harris, Barton, Arthur, Jokic

It was the Jokic show as he dazzled in the post, drawing doubles already in his rookie year. Fortunately Jokic knows exactly where to make the extra pass — as we’ve been discussing, his passing ability is way ahead of the curve.

Faried replaced Jokic and the offense immediately stagnated going scoreless for over two minutes of game-time. The Suns brought it back within just one point, but sloppy ball-handling allowed the Nuggets to go on a 7-0 run.

Foye, the unexpected hero, hits a dagger triple to extend the Nuggets lead to nine:

Faried followed up by ending the Suns hopes with an emphatic block on the next possession:

Final: Nuggets win 104-96.

WHERE/WHEN

Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ | Dec. 23rd | Regular Season Game 29 (12-17)

STAR OF THE GAME

As much as I love to hate on Foye, credit has to be given where it’s deserved. Foye absolutely lit it up from beyond the arc hitting 7-16 from 3-point land on his way to a game-high (and season high) 31 points on 12-27 shooting. He also ran the offense well and contributed with six assists. Great game for Foye, one might even say redeeming.

TURNING POINT OF THE GAME

While the rest of the game was a grind, the first quarter saw the Nuggets obtaining a 22-point lead to start the game. That alone allowed Denver to win tonight and credit must be given to the Nuggets for coming out of the gates firing after playing the Lakers in Denver the night before.

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Jokic with the sweet, sweet post moves. RUN THE OFFENSE THROUGH THE KID! (In good time.)

Jokic goes into beast mode on the boards:

Barton scrambling for the and-1. Just like coach drew up…

BY THE NUMBERS

NBA.com
NBA.com

Beside Foye’s eye-popping numbers, Arthur’s double-double stands out the most. 19 points and 10 boards on 9-14 shooting, all while playing great defense. Superb game for the Nuggets big man.

Barton continued to produce as he piled on 17 points and 9 boards on 7-15 shooting. Sixth Man of the Year may not be so far-fetched.

The Nuggets shot just 6-13 from the free throw line as they failed to establish aggression. Luckily it didn’t come back to bite them, but against a better team it can’t be afforded.

LASTING IMPRESSION

The Nuggets snap a three game losing streak and leave Phoenix with their heads held high after what may be the best win of the season. They’ll need all the confidence they can get as they face the Spurs, Thunder and Cavaliers in the next three games. Scary stuff.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Nuggets will fly to San Antonio and prepare to face the Spurs on Saturday, Dec. 26th at 6:30 p.m. MT.

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