After seeing their five-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday, the Suns are eager to begin another one at Denver.
The Nuggets are also coming off a loss to a Western Conference contender in Oklahoma City. They’ve dropped two of their last three, but enter tonight tied with Phoenix in the standings (14-10). The Suns currently hold the edge courtesy of their home win over Denver back in November.
A win tonight would negate any chance of Phoenix losing the season series (four games), the first tiebreaker when it comes to playoff seedings in April.
With that in mind, here are the five things that could very well determine Friday night’s outcome
Will Suns Bounce Back Strong?
Disappointment reigned in the locker room after Wednesday’s loss to San Antonio, but it was the edgy, competitive sort with an eagerness to move on and rectify it as soon as possible.
They’ll get their chance tonight in the Mile High City, but will that intent to bounce back carry over? The first quarter will be telling. The Suns jumped out to a 10-point lead over San Antonio on Wednesday, and would love to make a similar opening statement tonight.
Will Role Players Be Kept in Check?
On paper, the Spurs appeared to take a hit without Tony Parker available on Wednesday. Instead the Suns allowed the other four guards to go off for 47 points combined.
Phoenix could face a similar situation tonight if Ty Lawson doesn’t suit up due to a stomach flu that kept him out of practice on Thursday. Nate Robinson brings heat-check potential off the bench, and Randy Foye and Andre Miller have proven capable of big games against the Suns in the past.
Will Frye Remain Hot?
The Suns’ big man is coming off his first back-to-back 20-point performances since February of 2011. He shot a combined 15-of-23 in that stretch, including 9-of-11 from downtown.
The effect Frye’s shooting has on opposing team’s defense forms a double bonus. Big men are forced to race out and contest when he has the ball and stay close to him when he doesn’t. Such awareness keeps the lane less cluttered and opens up lanes for Bledsoe and Dragic to exploit.
Kenneth Faried (6-8) will be hard-pressed to recover and contest against the much-taller Frye.
Can Suns’ Depth Hold Out?
Incredibly, 13 Denver players average double-figure minutes per game. A few of them have only played in a handful of contests, the fact remains that Ty Lawson is the only Nugget to average more than 30 minutes per game.
Such heavy bench usage prevents fatigue, which is an undeniable factor at Denver’s altitude. Phoenix’s reserves, led by the Morris twins, Gerald Green and Archie Goodwin, will need to keep pace production-wise to prevent the Suns’ own starters from wearing down.
Will Dragic-Bledsoe Return to Form?
Wednesday marked the first inefficient outing from both Suns’ guards, with credit going to the Spurs’ defense for forcing the duo to shoot a combined 12-of-33 from the field.
Previous to that, Dragic and Bledsoe had connected on over 50 percent of their attempts during the team’s five-game win streak, an efficiency that sucked defenders into the paint and freed up the outside shooters.
Dragic did not play in the previous meeting between these two teams, creating an extra burden on Denver’s defense tonight.