The Phoenix Suns are known for being a bad defensive team and they did everything possible to live up to their reputation against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets, who lost their leading scorer Carmelo Anthony (illness) just a few minutes into the game, were able to score at will against the Suns' lackadaisical defense. The team looked tired, slow, and without energy for most of the game. Only Jason Richardson's season-high 39 point scoring performance kept Phoenix in the game at all.
The Nuggets took advantage of slow rotations and closeouts and blown assignments to connect on 16-of-30 three-point shots and got to the free throw line all game long. The Nuggets finished with 52 free throw attempts thanks to their aggressive play and the slow-footed Suns.
There were positive signs for Phoenix as well. They scored 60 points in the paint against Denver, also a poor defensive team, and the Suns second unit played better then they had been in the past few games. In the end though, no one could stop J.R. Smith, 30 points and eight rebounds, who played big minutes for the Nuggets off the bench without Anthony on the floor.
The rebounding numbers weren't horrible with the Nuggets only having three more second-chance points than the Suns, but the stretches of the game where the Suns were trying to close what was a 19-point deficit were thwarted by defensive rebounding woes. The Nuggets had nine offensive rebounds in the critical third quarter, with Shelden Williams collecting seven himself.
Coach Alvin Gentry went with a different lineup and rotation tonight, starting Hakim Warrick in place of Hedo Turkoglu. The move seemed to help Hedo, who played better with the second unit. Unfortunately, Warrick was missing shots he normally makes, so it was a wash. Newly sign seven-foot center, Earl Barron, played a solid ten minutes, collecting seven rebounds and making some athletic hustle plays. He missed a few shot opportunities, but he probably earned himself some more floor time.
The Suns return to Phoenix for a much-needed three days off. Tonight's game was the 10th in 17 days in a stretch that included six road games and eight travel days. The team falls to 8-9 on the season and travels to Golden State on Thursday and then returns back home to face the Indiana Pacers on Friday night in Phoenix.