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News » Nuggets-Suns Preview

Nuggets-Suns Preview

Nuggets-Suns Preview
Despite being 17 games over .500, the Denver Nuggets find themselves in danger of missing the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference. If they continue to play the way they have lately, however, they may be able to join what should be a formidable postseason field.

The Nuggets look to tie a season high with their sixth straight win as they hit the road to open a home-and-home series with the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

Denver (45-28) had been sitting in ninth place in the West behind Golden State since the end of February, but finally jumped past the Warriors on Saturday night. The Nuggets defeated Golden State 119-112 for their eighth straight home victory, moving them into the conference's final playoff spot - for now.

"Every game is important from here on out," said guard Allen Iverson, who had 14 points on just 4-of-20 shooting. "We understand even if we got this one, we've got to concentrate on getting the next one. We're not satisfied."

The Nuggets were a half-game up on Golden State and a half-game back of Dallas entering play Sunday. With all three teams boasting at least 44 wins, it seems likely the NBA will have a 50-win team left out of the playoffs for the first time.

Denver is the NBA's third-highest scoring team at 109.7 points per game, but it's been even more impressive offensively in its last 14 games. The Nuggets are averaging 120.0 points in that span, more than enough to overcome the 110.2 per game they've been allowing.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Denver's offensive outburst is its balance. Beyond the team's top scorers, Iverson and Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin is averaging 17.5 points over his last eight games, while reserve J.R. Smith has given the Nuggets 15.5 per game in that stretch.

Iverson is averaging 33.3 points in his last four contests against Phoenix (49-24), while Anthony is averaging 30.3 in his last eight versus the Suns.

Denver is 30-7 at home and has won 18 of its last 20 there. The Nuggets are 15-21 on the road, but have won their last three away from the Pepsi Center, all during their current five-game winning streak.

The Suns are one of five West teams within two games of the conference's top spot. They're returning home after a four-game trip that saw them drop the first two - losses that followed a seven-game winning streak - then rebound with wins in Philadelphia and New Jersey.

Amare Stoudemire had 33 points and 15 rebounds - his fourth 30-plus point effort in his last five games - in a 110-104 victory over the Nets on Saturday.

"This was very important," said Stoudemire, averaging 30.4 points in his last 10 games. "We are playing well, we are all jelling and showing great improvement."

Stoudemire has been outstanding since Shaquille O'Neal joined the Suns last month, but O'Neal's recent progress is perhaps the most encouraging sign for Phoenix as it battles the Los Angeles Lakers for the Pacific Division lead.

O'Neal, who initially struggled in the Suns' up-tempo system, is averaging 16.6 points and 10.0 rebounds in his last five games.

"I'm just doing what's asked of me," O'Neal said. "Amare is the first option. This is a team were guys don't worry about shots."

O'Neal had 12 points and 18 rebounds in a 126-113 loss at Denver on March 5.

The teams have split two meetings this season, each winning at home. The Nuggets haven't won in Phoenix in their last six visits.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: March 30, 2008


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