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Nuggets Get 'Throwback' Night From Chandler in Victory Over Suns
PHOENIX – Wilson Chandler didn’t have to think long about the question.
When was the last time your jumper felt this good?
“Last year,” Chandler said.
And with that answer, he flashed a smile. This was one of those smiling moments for the veteran, whose jump shot was firmly switched to the ‘on’ position. Chandler had his best game of the season, scoring a season-high 26 points and making all of the important shots late in the Nuggets’ 123-113 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
Chandler lived the aggressive life all night long on offense. On the ball, he looked to score with confidence. Off the ball, he passed with decisiveness and cut with purpose. His aggressiveness was rewarded by making 11-of-15 shots overall, including three out of his four attempts from the 3-point line. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, including a couple of big 3-pointers to keep the Suns from getting back into the game.
“It definitely felt good,” Chandler said. “It felt like a throwback.”
These kinds of scoring nights used to come fast and furious for Chandler. Now, as he picks and chooses his spots to look for his offense a lot more carefully, the big numbers are less regular. But in the last two games, he’s looking like a player getting back to his old self. He made 4-of-8 shots and scored 11 points in the Nuggets game against Houston on Friday. And he followed it up with Saturday night’s scoring binge.
“I love it when he’s aggressive,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “And the great thing about it was, it wasn’t like we were calling his number every time. I think our guys did a great job of finding him, and Wilson did the rest by stepping in, making timely threes down the stretch to keep our lead up; attacking the basket. It was a great night for him. Hopefully he can continue that as we approach these last 26 games.”
Chandler had help. Will Barton turned up his offense in the third quarter, scoring 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-3 from the 3-point line. When Barton wasn’t hitting 3-pointers he was driving and finishing at the rim. He scored 25 points in all with five rebounds and five assists.
Nikola Jokić rounded out three Nuggets with at least 20 points. He had 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. The Nuggets pounded the ball into him in the second quarter, posting him up time after time in hopes of taking advantage of his matchup against Phoenix center Dragan Bender. For a while, it was a steady march to the free throw line for Jokić. The Suns couldn’t stop him, so they just fouled him. He made 6-of-7 free throws in that second quarter, and 10-fo-11 for the game.
“I didn’t even think Nikola had a great game tonight, then I look at the stat sheet,” Malone said. “And he’s got 21, nine boards and (eight) assists. And that speaks to how talented Nikola is. He may not even have one of his better nights and he still impacts the game in every single manner that you can.”
A 61-53 second half was good enough to get the Nuggets the win. It was the team’s first road win in 2018, and snapped a streak of seven straight road losses. It was the Nuggets’ fourth straight road win at Phoenix, however.
This one wasn’t always smooth. There were some harrowing moments. Phoenix’s TJ Warren scored in bunches. The Suns got into the paint and scored too much for Malone’s liking. But in the end, there was the only thing the Nuggets really wanted. A victory.
“We didn’t defend at all tonight,” Malone said. “I’m happy we won the game, it was an important game for us to win. But I hate the fact that we did it without any defense. Hopefully we can respond in a couple of days before we play San Antonio.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter