ROUND UP

Nuggets lose to the Suns again, but it probably doesn’t mean much

Mar 28, 2024, 12:01 AM

DENVER—The Denver Nuggets have 15 wins and three losses since the All-Star Break and two of those have come against the Phoenix Suns, the same club that’s responsible for handing the Mile High crew as many playoff losses last summer as the rest of the NBA combined. So is it time to worry about the star-powered Suns? Probably not.

The Nuggets were without Jamal Murray for Wednesday’s 104-97 loss but so too were the Suns without Jusuf Nurkic. Such is March basketball, it rarely means anything and most records after the All-Star Break are extremely flukey—what does it say about Denver’s 15-3 record since the midseason classic? Who knows, what is known is that Denver had a chance to lead first place in the West by an entire game when they woke up on Thursday. The Thunder lost in overtime without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander earlier on Wednesday. Instead, Denver leads both Oklahoma City and Minnesota by just a half-game with a pivotal showdown against the Wolves coming on Friday.

What about the Suns then? Well, they were coming off their worst loss of the season to a Victor Wembanyama-less Spurs. They’ve fallen to the play-in spots and have been middling for a while now. Phoenix responded to their devastating loss by out-rebounding the Nuggets by 13 and they went 16-0f-33 from three to Denver’s 10-of-40. It’s the second time the Suns have caught fire from deep against Denver here lately, as Grayson Allen knocked down eight triples against the Nuggets earlier this month.

“You get out-rebound by 13, they dominate the glass, they out-score us by 18 from the three-point line,” Michael Malone said. “And then little things like transition opportunity, one-for-eight in transition opportunities. We got to convert, we got to score we got to generate free throws. We gotta do something you can’t leave seven possessions in transition unaccounted for. We were five of 10 offensive rebounds. I mean, so there were points to be had. That could have helped us while we were struggling to make shots… I thought we had a ton of great looks that just didn’t go down for us.”

Murray missed his third straight game, sitting due to knee inflammation. It’s been a good spot to rest the guard since Denver just played two non-playoff teams and has that important bout on Friday. In fact, most of the Nuggets roster has been on the injury report lately with even Nikola Jokic sitting out over the weekend. This has led to some strange lineups, some of which we saw on Wednesday where there was even a stint of Peyton Watson playing center—hence the rebounding gap. Though again, the Suns didn’t have their starting center.

This loss was by far the biggest since the break for the Nuggets, who had only fallen to the Suns in overtime and the Mavericks on a buzzer-beater. But is anyone surprised the folks in purple and orange rocked Denver without Murray? That was kind of the whole thing for the since unheard from Suns in Four Guy™.

The one thing maybe somebody will point to if the Nuggets do find their way into another series against the Suns come postseason; Wednesday’s battle at Ball Arena was the first where the Suns had all Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal healthy.

But at least Jokic made league history, becoming the first player to score 8,000 points, snag 4,000 rebounds and throw 3,000 assists over a five-year stretch in NBA history.

The record books and standings may remember Wednesday and so too may the most optimistic Suns fan, but for the Nuggets the loss was about as meaningful as a Summer League Game.

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