Suns-Nuggets Game Preview
The Phoenix Suns suffered their most lopsided defeat in nearly five years in their last matchup with the Denver Nuggets.
Playing at home against Denver, though, could make all the difference this time around.
Seeking a seventh win in nine games overall, the Suns will try for a 13th consecutive home victory over the Nuggets on Thursday night.
When the Suns (33-29) left Denver on Jan. 11 after a 132-98 loss - their worst since falling 110-72 at New Jersey on March 27, 2006 - they were 11th in the Western Conference and six games below .500.
Phoenix has gone 18-8 since that defeat to move up to ninth.
Playing for the first time since losing Channing Frye to a dislocated right shoulder, the Suns scored at least 100 points for a season-best 11th consecutive game and beat Houston 113-110 on Tuesday night.
Another high-scoring affair could be in store against the Nuggets, as Phoenix has averaged 117.0 points during a 12-game home winning streak in the series.
Denver (37-27) hasn't won in Phoenix since a 111-96 victory April 7, 2004. Plus, the Nuggets only have one road win over a team with a winning record since the start of December, and they've dropped seven of 10 away from home overall.
The latest of those losses came Saturday night, 100-94 to the Los Angeles Clippers, though it was just Denver's second defeat in seven games since sending Carmelo Anthony to New York.
The Nuggets are averaging an NBA-best 107.3 points, but their recent success can be attributed to an impressive effort on the defensive end. They're allowing 94.3 points per game since the trade - 9.7 below than their season mark.
That success defensively and without Anthony are among the reasons Denver gave coach George Karl a three-year contract extension Tuesday.
"I believe that we will be a better basketball team not only in the next few months but the next few years," Karl said. "I think we will challenge for a championship."
Arron Afflalo, who has started all 64 games for Denver, was forced to leave in the first half Saturday after straining his left hamstring and his status for this game is unknown.
Afflalo, averaging a career-best 12.9 points, scored a career-high 31 in Jan. 11 victory over Phoenix.
J.R. Smith had a season-high 30 points in a 138-133 win over the Suns on Nov. 28. Smith is averaging 16.1 points against them during his career - his most versus any opponent.
Phoenix won the first meeting of the season, 100-94 on Nov. 15 as Hakim Warrick scored 21 points off the bench. Warrick replaced Frye in the starting lineup Tuesday and had a career-high 32 points on 14-of-19 shooting with eight rebounds.
Warrick had totaled only 17 points in his previous three games. Frye, out two to three weeks, had been averaging 15.3 points and 8.5 rebounds since the start of February.
"I know, collectively, everyone is going to have step up their game," Warrick said. "He's a big part of this team, this organization and he's been playing so well for us, so I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive and just do my part."
Grant Hill added 19 points Tuesday after averaging 7.3 on 29.4 percent shooting over his previous four games.
Vince Carter, scoring a career-low 14.7 points per game, is averaging 30.5 and has made 11 of 19 3-pointers in his last two contests.
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