After losing four of their last five games, Phoenix is in need of a win. Luckily for them, Denver hasn’t failed into provide one for them this season.
The Suns won both of their previous meetings against the Nuggets this season, and both those wins came immediately after a loss.
Can Phoenix right the ship at Denver’s expense yet again? Here’s five things that could well determine the answer.
Will Keef Keep It Up?
Here’s what Markieff Morris has done in the last two games combined: 47 points, 19 rebounds, six assists, 58.6 percent shooting.
Even more encouraging for the Suns is that Denver seems to bring out even more from Morris. The third-year forward set a career-high against the Nuggets in their first meeting this season, pouring in 28 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. He was just as lethal the second time around (25 points, six rebounds, three steals, three blocks).
The last time Morris logged three consecutive 20-point games, he was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. The Nuggets could give him another chance tonight.
Which Denver Team Shows Up?
The Nuggets stumbled into the new year with an eight-game losing streak. They followed by ripping off five straight wins.
Over the last five games, Denver has beaten contenders Oklahoma City and Golden State, but lost to non-playoff teams Utah and Cleveland.
Which version will Phoenix see tonight? And will Phoenix be ready for either one?
O Three-Pointer, Where Art Thou?
The Suns have been ice cold from beyond the arc, recently, failing to hit at least 40 percent from deep in the last seven games. The last three contests have been particularly woeful. Phoenix is shooting just 25.3 percent from distance in that span.
Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek said after Friday’s loss he’d like to see the team attack the basket more initially, especially in transition, and force the defense to collapse before looking to the perimeter shot.
If Phoenix does that, they’ll be setting themselves up for success. The Suns are 10-3 when they shoot at least 40 percent from three-point range.
Are Suns Interior Kryptonite to Denver?
The balance of inside vs. outside scoring has been a watch-worthy note all season for Phoenix, but their interior punch seems to deliver against a usually stout Denver defense.
The Nuggets rank in the top five in the league in blocks and rebounds, but have given up a combined 88 points in the paint to Phoenix this season.
Markieff Morris is a big reason why, but Phoenix’s guards have also been able to penetrate and and get opportunities for themselves or teammates. Look for the Suns to continue taking advantage of the Nuggets in that regard.
Will Phoenix Frustrate Nuggets Again?
One of the reasons the Suns’ transition game has been so effective against Denver is their ability to create opportunities on defense. Phoenix has forced the Nuggets into committing 36 turnovers combined in their two meetings this season, which led to 46 fast break points.
The Morris twins were particularly effective at disrupting the Nuggets’ interior offense, coming up with a combined nine steals in the two games.
If Phoenix can force a rash of early turnovers, don’t be shocked to see the Suns build a big lead.