PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 12: Mason Plumlee #24 of the Denver Nuggets dunks the ball against the Phoenix Suns on January 12, 2019 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
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Nuggets Drop Game Against Phoenix, Head Back Home to Take on Portland

The Denver Nuggets will head back to the Mile High City and prepare for their second game in a back-to-back after losing to the Phoenix Suns, 102-93. The Nuggets are now 2-1 against the Suns. Denver remains in first place in the Western Conference with a record of 28-13.

In his first game back since playing the Suns on October 20th, Will Barton finished his 2019 debut with six points, five rebounds, and three assists. Malik Beasley added to his season’s success with 21 points, including 5-for–9 shooting from 3-point range. Nikola Jokić, who was coming off of back-to-back triple doubles, finished with another double-double, 23 points and 10 rebounds.

“Their bench outscored ours 49-25. I thought a real key stretch to the game goes back to the end of that first quarter. Close game, you know, back and forth, and they close that first quarter on a 11-3 run. It was their bench... We didn’t match their energy off their bench. Their bench definitely dominated us tonight,” head coach Michael Malone said.

The Suns’ Kelly Oubre Jr. tied his season high in points with 26 while also snagging 11 rebounds and dishing out three assists. Deandre Ayton contributed to the Phoenix victory with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

The Nuggets (28-13) finished the first quarter trailing by eight, 31-23, after being down by as many as 10. Denver was down by four with a minute left to play in the first before the Suns connected on back-to-back 3-pointers. Barton fired back with a three of his own to help cool the Suns’ heat.

The cooling didn’t last long as the Suns (11-33) extended their lead to as many as 16 in the second quarter. The Nuggets had a hard time defending Ayton, who is averaging a double-double, and Oubre Jr. In the first half, Ayton and Oubre Jr. combined for 25 points and 12 off of the Suns’ 24 rebounds. Malik Beasley helped the Nuggets close the first half as Denver’s only player in double figures with 12 points.

Turnovers were a problem for the Nuggets, as they racked up 10 in the first half before starting the third quarter with back-to-back bad passes. The Nuggets finished with 17 turnovers while Phoenix finished with nine.

“Seventeen [turnovers] for 26 [points] and in the first half, 11 for 18. Obviously, we outscored them in that second half. Our defense was a little better in that second half but I would say, on top of the turnovers, playing hard. That team outplayed us tonight,” Malone said.

Malone continued: “They played harder than us tonight and it was apparent throughout the game. I give them credit. They came out here, played hard, and were able to get the win. It wasn’t just the turnovers, it was the offensive rebounds. Sometimes, it just comes down to effort, playing hard. Tonight, we didn’t do that long enough.”

The Denver Nuggets travel to back to Pepsi Center to face the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday at 6 p.m. The game will be aired live on Altitude TV and streamed on AltitudeNOW.

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