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Nuggets search for breakthrough in the desert against Suns

Denver has dropped both games against Phoenix this season

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson is averaging 18.7 points and 11.4 assists over this past nine games.
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

After allowing an average of 117 points over the past three games, the priority list for the Denver Nuggets probably looks something like this:

  • Transition defense.
  • Pick-and-roll defense.
  • Help defense.
  • Perimeter defense.
  • Interior defense.

    “Our main focus should be trying to handle our defensive assignments,” Denver guard Randy Foye said. “Everything else will fall into place if we do that.”

    The defense will be put to the test again Sunday night when the Nuggets face the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. Behind attacking point guard Goran Dragic, the Suns are 10th in the NBA in scoring and fourth in total 3-pointers.

    Denver is right behind Phoenix in scoring and has averaged 115 points while going 6-3 in the past nine games.

    “The first team that decides to play defense is the team that’s going to win.” Nuggets forward/center J.J. Hickson said.

    Denver and Phoenix are among several teams fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Suns (22-17) are eighth in the West, a half-game behind seventh-place Dallas, but only 3½ games ahead of 11th-place Minnesota.

    Phoenix has beaten the Nuggets twice already this season and can secure the postseason tiebreaker with another win Sunday.

    “We definitely owe them,” Hickson said. “They’ve given us problems. This is a game we have to have to take a step closer to being in the playoff race.”


    NUGGETS AT SUNS


    WHEN:
    6 p.m. MT
    WHERE: US Airways Center, Phoenix.
    TV; RADIO: Altitude; AM-950

    PROBABLE STARTERS
    DENVER (20-19)

    F Wilson Chandler
    F Kenneth Faried
    C J.J. Hickson
    G Randy Foye
    G Ty Lawson

    PHOENIX (22-17)
    F P.J. Tucker
    F Channing Frye
    C Miles Plumlee
    G Gerald Green
    G Goran Dragic

    INJURY REPORT
    DENVER:
    Darrell Arthur (hip strain), Danilo Gallinari (knee) and JaVale McGee (stress fracture, left tibia) are out.
    PHOENIX: Leandro Barbosa (shoulder sprain) is day-to-day; Eric Bledsoe (knee) and Emeka Okafor (herniated disc) are out.

    SERIES NOTES
    Denver is 14-20 overall against the Suns since 2004-05, having gone 11-6 at home and 3-14 on the road . . . The road team has won just five games in this series since the end of the 2006-07 season and is a mere 5-15 over this stretch . . . Before the previous two seasons, the Nuggets had not won a season series against Phoenix since 2003-04 (4-0), while they’ve only won multiple games against the Suns three times in the eight seasons since (2-2 in 2007-08) . . . The Suns set a Nuggets opponent record with 20 made 3-pointers at US Airways Center on 1/7/08 (20-of-31) . . . The Suns also hold the Nuggets opponent record for the most points scored in a regular season non-overtime game (173 in Phoenix on 11/10/90).