The Denver Nuggets face the Phoenix Suns in Arizona for a two-game set. One of the highlights from the 2020-21 NBA season so far has been performance of the new-look Phoenix Suns franchise. They started the campaign winning 5 of their first 6 games and are currently 4th in the Western Conference, a huge leap from last season.
Meanwhile, the same can't be said about the Denver Nuggets who started the season slowly and appear to have taken a dip since their Conference Finals appearance last season. Their subpar defense has cost them games, which is why they are 10th right now in the standings with a record of 7-7.
Fixture: Denver Nuggets vs Phoenix Suns
Date & Time: Friday, January 22nd, 2021 10:00 PM ET (January 23rd, Saturday 8:30 AM IST).
Venue: Phoenix Suns Arena, Phoenix, AZ
Check out the NBA schedule here.
Phoenix Suns Preview
The Phoenix Suns were the only team that went undefeated in the Orlando bubble last season with an 8-0 record. They acquired Chris Paul in the offseason and his veteran leadership and playmaking skills have done wonders for the young players on the roster. The veteran point-guard has developed great chemistry with the players and his partnership with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton is flourishing.
The Phoenix Suns' current record and momentum should give them an advantage over the Denver Nuggets for this matchup. However, with Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic on their side, it would foolish for anyone to count out the Denver Nuggets.
Key Player - Devin Booker
Fortunately for Devin Booker, the majority of the Pheonix Suns roster around him is playing at an elite level. Chris Paul's playmaking prowess is allowing others to score efficiently through good looks that are being provided to them.
However, the pressure to score on a nightly basis still falls on the shoulders of Devin Booker, who has been nothing sort of phenomenal. At this point of the season, the 24-year-old is averaging 22 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. If he can improve on these numbers and keep Pheonix Suns closer to the top of the Western Conference, then he could very well enter the MVP conversation.
Phoenix Suns Predicted Lineup
G - Chris Paul, G - Devin Booker, F - Mikal Bridges, F - Cameron Johnson, C - Deandre Ayton
Denver Nuggets Preview
The Denver Nuggets need to improve drastically on defense in order to turn things around. Their squad has great chemistry playing together but they need to force more turnovers together as a team and create fast-break opportunities, which allows Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to get easy buckets.
Key Player - Jamal Murray
Jamal Murray has not been performing at the level we saw him perform in the 2020 playoffs. Even though the pressure of a regular-season game isn't even close to a playoff game, Murray still needs to take over in big moments and close out games. He has been a great closer throughout his career but recently has been putting up average numbers.
Jokic has been performing at a near-MVP level this season, averaging a triple-double thus far. But Murray has been inconsistent, he scored 30 points in a loss to the Utah Jazz and scored just 5 points in the win against OKC Thunder. He definitely needs to improve his production on offensive end to lift some of the burden from Jokic's shoulders.
Denver Nuggets Predicted Lineup
G - Jamal Murray, G - Gary Harris, F - Will Barton, F - Paul Millsap, C - Nikola Jokic
Nuggets vs Suns Match Prediction
The Phoenix Suns are favored to win this game but the Denver Nuggets have a habit of scrapping out wins from difficult situations. The away team will need another monster performance from Nikola Jokic, in addition to a much better defensive game plan to ensure victory in this encounter.
The Pheonix Suns are functioning like a well-oiled machine and working quite efficiently. Expect the focus of Denver Nuggets to be firmly on controlling Devin Booker in this game.