NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, February 18th (All times Eastern)
Phoenix Suns (30-21) at Denver Nuggets (24-27), 9 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - If the Denver Nuggets intend on keeping their playoff streak alive, they have to pick it up in the second half of the season, which begins Tuesday versus the Phoenix Suns.
Regulars in the playoffs in each of the last 10 seasons, the Nuggets currently sit six games off a postseason spot in the challenging Western Conference. They entered this weekend's All-Star break losers of four straight and nine of the last 13 contests.
The Nuggets are hoping the time off will help them for the second half.
"No better time to just have a break and have everybody get away from each other for a few days," Denver head coach Brian Shaw said. "Hopefully (we can) recharge and re-group and get ready for the second half."
Shaw's squad is one of the worst on defense and sits 28th in opponents' scoring (104.5 ppg).
Denver's second half starts Tuesday and its first half ended with last Wednesday's 117-90 setback at Minnesota. Jordan Hamilton scored 16 points off the bench, J.J. Hickson added 14 and 13 rebounds, and Evan Fournier netted 13 for the Nuggets. who had 21 turnovers lead to 29 points for the Wolves.
Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson is still bothered by a fractured rib and hasn't played since Feb. 8 at Detroit. He leads the Nuggets in points (18.0), assists (8.8) and steals (1.5).
After the Nuggets, who are 14-11 as the host and have won back-to-back games at the Pepsi Center, host the Suns, they will visit Milwaukee and Chicago.
The Suns headed to the All-Star break with three losses in four games following a five-game winning streak.
In last Tuesday's 103-97 loss to the Miami Heat in the desert, Gerald Green scored 26 points and both Channing Frye and Goran Dragic added 15. P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, for Phoenix, which is seventh in the Western Conference, just a half-game behind Dallas.
"We had some opportunities. We had some turnovers. We had some defensive lapses. That's enough to be beat by these guys," Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said after the close loss to the Heat.
Dragic and Green have guided the Suns offensively, while the former is averaging 22.9 points in his last 23 contests. The Suns are 10-4 when Green posts 20 or more points and he is posting an average of 17.9 ppg over the past eight contests. He has scored 20-plus points four times in that span.
The Suns have a 13-12 road record and will start a four-game homestand Wednesday versus Boston, San Antonio, Houston and Minnesota.
Phoenix has won the first three meetings with Denver this season and hasn't swept a series since taking all four matchups back in 2004-05. The Suns, though, hope to end their recent struggles in the Mile High City and have dropped 10 of the past 12 trips there.
02/18 10:25:55 ET