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Game Preview: What to Watch for In the Nuggets Game Against Phoenix
First up in this month of January stuffed full of home games are the Phoenix Suns, who have struggled but are slowly getting things together having won six of their last nine games. But the Nuggets are getting the game in the Pepsi Center. And in addition to that, the Nuggets will have one other important advantage – rest.
And plenty of it.
The Nuggets got three days off following their last home game, last Saturday against Philadelphia. And they needed it. Phoenix comes into Denver playing the second game of a back-to-back, which started with a win over Atlanta on Tuesday night. It is the Suns’ third game in four nights.
But Nuggets coach Michael Malone was quick to warn his team.
“My message was, just because we have 10 home games in January doesn’t mean we can just show up,” Malone said. “As we all know, not just in the Philly game, for us being a young team, we can beat anybody and we can lose to anybody. That is life in the NBA.”
So how do the Nuggets beat Phoenix? Start with these areas…
Know the personnel: This is one of Nuggets coach Michael Malone’s favorite phrases, and as it relates to knowing what to do depending on who is running the pick-and-roll for the Suns, it is extremely important. There are three players who get screens set high – two steps above the 3-point line – Devin Booker, Isaiah Canaan and Troy Daniels. The reason: They are the only real 3-point threats on the team, so the Suns are trying to shake them free for open looks at the arc. Also, in the cases of Booker and Canaan, that high screen can also get them downhill to the rim. Screens for T.J. Warren and Tyler Ulis are primarily set right at the 3-point line or below and gets each one of those players into midrange areas for short jumpers and attempts in the paint.
Take care of the defensive glass: The Suns are not a high percentage shooting team, but they make up for it by crashing the offensive glass and gobbling up second chance points. Entering Tuesday night’s games, they were fifth in the NBA at 11.2 offensive boards per game, turning those into 14.0 second chance points. The Nuggets are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, so taking care of the defensive boards should be all in a normal day’s work.
Find new lineups that work: Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he’d like to get more reserve players into the game to keep minutes for his top seven players under better control. That means re-finding combinations that work. This is the first chance for Malone to do that. He’s got 36 games under his belt in which he’s used dozens of combinations, so it’s not as if he’s starting from scratch. But he’ll need to hit on which reserves to use and how much to use them, starting Wednesday.
INJURY REPORT: Paul Millsap (wrist) is out of the game.
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter