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Energy lacking as Nuggets fall to Suns in preseason

Denver coach Brian Shaw describes effort as 'inexcusable'

Nuggets forward Anthony Randolph pursues Gerald Green during Denver's preseason loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

One week and one preseason game stand between the Nuggets and opening night.

There’s a sizable a to-do list between now and then.

The main priorities: Get healthy. Get focused. Get better.

Missing two primary energy guys, Kenneth Faried and Nate Robinson, and three other rotation players, the Nuggets struggled to shift into overdrive Wednesday night in a 98-79 preseason loss to the Phoenix Suns.

Sticking to his no-excuses philosophy, Denver coach Brian Shaw didn’t mince words after the game.

“The guys that are getting an opportunity now are just basically letting it slip through their fingers,” Shaw said. “This is their chance to show that they are capable of holding down the fort or contributing in the rotation in some sort of way. Tonight is inexcusable and there’s no way around it.”

The Nuggets shot .341 from the field committed 17 turnovers, were outrebounded 53-41 and gave up 38 points in the fourth quarter. They have one preseason game remaining Friday at Chicago.

“Obviously we have a lot of work to do,” Shaw said. “It is the preseason and we do have guys out, but like I said that’s no excuse. I can live with a loss if we give it everything we have and leave everything out on the floor, and I don’t feel like we did that tonight. I want to see who is going to fight and who is going to show some heart out on the floor and we didn’t show that.”

Anthony Randolph, playing significant minutes in the absence of forwards Faried (hamstring), Darrell Arthur (bruised quad), Wilson Chandler (hamstring) and Danilo Gallinari (knee), was one of the bright spots for Denver. Randolph led the Nuggets with 15 points and added three steals.

“There is no reason why shouldn’t come out and have energy against a team that is coming off a back-to-back, especially coming here in the altitude,” Randolph said. “It’s just a learning experience and we’re going to get better. It’s something we are going to work on.”

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said defense will be key over the next several days. The Suns were effective in the pick-and-roll, particularly when playmakers Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe were on the court together.

“I think they scored every time the last five or six minutes with wide-open shots,” Lawson said. “Just defense overall and guys learning the plays. There’s a lot of people not on the same page out there and it shows.”

Denver, still adapting to Shaw's pass-and-cut offensive system, scored just 14 points in the fourth quarter. They committed three turnovers and made one shot during Phoenix's decisive 18-2 run late in the game.

"One of the advantages of teams having to travel here on the second night of a back-to-back is they get in late and the altitude," Shaw said. "We didn't give the crowd any reason to give us energy. They're not going to cheer for us if we're going out there with a lackluster performance. You have to show that you have some fight and give the people what they paid money for. We didn't do that."

The Nuggets could get a boost from Arthur and Robinson if they are able to play against Chicago. Chandler and Faried remain day-to-day and Shaw wants them to return to full strength before the season opens Wednesday at Sacramento.

“Ultimately having everybody available for the 30th is the goal,” Shaw said. “I’d like for those guys to get a couple practices in. Preseason is the time for getting your timing down and if we’re not afforded that opportunity in the preseason, that’s fine. The main thing is we go in as whole as we possibly can going into that first game.”