Suns-Nuggets Preview

No team has played fewer road games than the Phoenix Suns, though that's about to drastically change.

The Denver Nuggets' upcoming schedule isn't any easier despite not leaving home anytime soon.

Beginning a road-heavy stretch against a team they recently dominated, the Suns try to spoil the start of Denver's four-game homestand Friday night after nearly completing a perfect one of their own.

Phoenix (6-5) has played away from home three times and only once in the past 2 1/2 weeks. Nine of the next 11 games come on the road, however, starting with this three-game trip that also makes stops in New Orleans and San Antonio.

The Suns' last road game was a 21-point loss in Oklahoma City on Nov. 8, but they followed with three consecutive home victories before hosting surging Chicago on Wednesday. Phoenix rallied from 17 down to take the lead on Eric Bledsoe's two free throws with 4:47 left, but the Bulls went on to win 103-97.

Veteran P.J. Tucker wasn't discouraged by the effort against one of the Eastern Conference's top teams and feels good about the Suns' chances on the upcoming trip.

“I think we'll be OK,” said Tucker, who had a season-high 20 points. “We felt good at the end, we just didn't make shots. … I still think we're happy with the way we played. We wanna get better, but we'll just continue to build on it.”

Like Tucker, first-year Denver coach Mike Malone sounded positive even after a loss Wednesday against a perennial contender – 109-98 to San Antonio.

“I'm proud of our guys and how hard they played, how hard they completed,” Malone said. “Twenty-five assists, only six turnovers. So there are a lot of areas we're making progress in. Definitely a game where we can keep our heads up.”

It was a far better performance than the Nuggets (6-6) had Saturday in a 105-81 defeat at Phoenix, where they trailed by as many as 37 points.

Prior to that game, Denver had completed a perfect three-game homestand. This stretch at the Pepsi Center will certainly test Malone's young team with matchups against defending champion Golden State as well as two other West contenders – the Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.

“I think the progress we've made even in the first 12 games gives me a lot of excitement and hope that these guys are starting to understand how we need to play to become a good team,” Malone said. “Not just for today, but in the big picture.”

A key for Denver has been Danilo Gallinari's production. He's had at least 25 points in each of the last three wins, but Gallinari had nine on 2-of-11 shooting Wednesday and was 2 of 12 for eight points against the Suns.

Bledsoe led Phoenix with 30 points that night, part of his career-best streak of six games with at least 20. Brandon Knight had only 10 points against the Nuggets but has averaged 26.5 in the last two.

They're nearly on pace to become the fifth set of teammates in NBA history to average 20.0 points and 5.0 assists in a season.

Phoenix is 7-1 in this series since the beginning of 2013-14.