Preview: Denver Nuggets continue Summer League against Suns

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

Despite having some reinforcements arrive in town for their second Summer League game, the Denver Nuggets fell to 0-2 Tuesday night at the hands of the Boston Celtics.

However, there were several positives from Tuesday’s action at the Thomas & Mack Center. Bones Hyland made his NBA Summer League debut and scored 17 points to go along with six assists. Meanwhile, Bol Bol got going early and finished with 26 points on 66.7 percent shooting from the field.

MORE: Three takeaways from loss to Celtics

The attention turns to the Phoenix Suns, who the Nuggets will match up against Thursday night (8 pm MT, NBATV). Here are three keys to Denver’s third Summer League contest.

The Bones x Bol connection

Despite arriving in Las Vegas Tuesday, Bones looked comfortable early against Boston, showcasing his one-on-one scoring abilities, deep shooting range, and his playmaking skills. Hyland and Bol connected for a couple of alley-oops and pick-and-roll finishes throughout the game, as the two seemingly had natural on-court chemistry.

Denver will hope for a repeat performance from both players Thursday night against Phoenix. Hyland should only gain comfort as he integrates within the team and adjusts to Summer League play.

Can Nnaji bounce back?

Another arrival for the Nuggets Thursday was Zeke Nnaji, the sophomore big man. Nnaji struggled Tuesday night as a result of his delayed arrival to Las Vegas, missing all nine of his shot attempts.

Thursday’s contest provides the 20-year-old big man with an opportunity to gain his footing and contribute within Denver’s offense, especially as a floor spacer. Nnaji impressed in limited action during the 2020-21 season, especially when it came to his 3-point shooting and defensive versatility, making him an intriguing fit alongside Bol in Denver’s Summer League frontcourt.

Slowing down Smith

Phoenix’s Summer League roster is headlined by second-year big man Jalen Smith. The 10th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Smith has impressed during the Suns’ first two Summer League games.

The 21-year-old has averaged 13.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game this week, which will present a tough challenge for Nnaji and Bol to match up against on the defensive end of the floor, especially on the boards.

Smith is a capable 3-point shooter as well, making it a priority for Denver’s defense to lock in when defending beyond the arc.

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