Danilo Gallinari
Nuggets-Suns Preview
Danilo Gallinari

Nuggets-Suns Preview

Published Dec. 23, 2015 1:30 a.m. ET

A stretch that seemed like it could extend Denver's hot play instead cooled the Nuggets down. Now they will have to warm back up away from home.

The Nuggets will try to snap a three-game losing streak when they visit the reeling Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.

Denver (11-17) had won five of six and looked poised to extend its three-game winning streak with a trio of games against sub-.500 teams. But the Nuggets followed their 39.2 percent shooting performance in Friday's 97-88 loss at Utah by allowing New Orleans to make 56.4 percent of its shots in Sunday's 130-125 home loss.

Things hit rock bottom with Tuesday's 111-107 loss to the last-place Los Angeles Lakers when the Nuggets blew a 21-point first-half lead. The Lakers, one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league, shot 47.6 percent and outscored Denver 32-16 in the third quarter.


"We did a poor job of defending in the third quarter, we did a poor job of defending without fouling for the entire game," coach Mike Malone said. "It was just another very disappointing loss."

Will Barton scored 23 of his 25 points in the first half, but the Nuggets were outscored 60-43 after intermission. Danilo Gallinari (17.3 points per game) missed his first game of the season with a sprained left ankle while Emmanuel Mudiay (10.3) missed his fifth straight with the same injury to his right ankle. Gary Harris strained his right knee early, but returned to match a career high with 21 points.

Suddenly, Denver faces a stretch of seven of nine games away from home. The Nuggets are 6-8 on the road but have won three of their last four.

They open a three-game road trip against another losing team, though one they have beaten only once in nine games since Nov. 8, 2013. That stretch for the Suns includes four games in Phoenix and victories in the first two matchups this season.

The Suns (12-18) cruised to a 105-81 home win over the Nuggets on Nov. 14 and added a 114-107 victory on Nov. 20 in Denver.

Brandon Knight scored a career-high 38 points while adding 11 rebounds and six assists in the second meeting. The shooting guard finished with just 10 points in the first, but Eric Bledsoe did the damage with 30 points. Bledsoe has averaged 23.3 points in the last three meetings.

Phoenix has dropped four of its last five games and the latest loss wasn't close. The Suns shot 39.2 percent and committed 16 turnovers while finishing with a season-low 12 assists in Monday's 110-89 loss at Utah.

Knight and Mirza Teletovic combined for 43 points off the bench, but the Suns' starters combined for just 30 on 11-for-33 shooting. Phoenix started Devin Booker and T.J. Warren in place of P.J. Tucker and Knight for the first time this season.

''Trying to mix it up and see if we can get some life,'' coach Jeff Hornacek said. ''We've done the same thing for most of the season in terms of some slow starts. I just thought those young guys could get in there with a little emotion and a little action in the beginning and it didn't happen.''

The Suns were outscored 33-21 in the first quarter, and it is unclear if Hornacek will continue using Knight and Tucker off the bench.


Danilo Gallinari
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