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Mar 26, 2024 5:21 pm

Nuggets cruising despite injuries, host Suns next

jokic

The Denver Nuggets are 15-2 since the All-Star break and have risen to the top spot in the Western Conference.

One of those two losses came at home to the Phoenix Suns three weeks ago, which ended a six-game winning streak. Phoenix (42-30) has a chance to end another streak by the reigning champions – this time a four-game run — when it visits Denver (51-21) on Wednesday night.

The Suns are coming off a disappointing 104-102 loss on Monday at San Antonio, which was without Victor Wembanyama, and had a three-game winning streak stopped. It was a missed opportunity to move closer to the top six seeds in the Western Conference.

With the Suns’ final 10 games coming against teams currently in playoff position, it was a tough loss for Phoenix.

“It’s unacceptable to lose that game for our guys,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We all said the right things, we all did the right preparation to come in, but we didn’t play with the necessary focus and disposition throughout I would say the first half. You give a team like that life and that’s how the NBA works.”

Things won’t get easier for the Suns, either. Center Jusuf Nurkic left Monday’s game late in the third quarter with a right ankle injury and didn’t return. He reportedly didn’t practice Tuesday. In addition, Bradley Beal left with a sprained right ring finger and is listed as a game-time decision for Wednesday.

Nurkic has been one of the few centers who has defended well against two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. The two are good friends and broke into the league together with the Nuggets. They matched up in practice together for a few years, which has helped when Nurkic plays against Jokic. If he cannot go, Bol Bol could get some time defending Jokic.

Denver has also been dealing with injuries but has kept rolling. Jokic (lower back pain, left hip inflammation) and Jamal Murray (left ankle sprain) missed Saturday’s win at Portland, and Murray, Aaron Gordon (right plantar fasciitis) and Zeke Nnaji (adductor tendinitis) didn’t play in a blowout win over Memphis on Monday night.

Nnaji has been ruled out for Wednesday, while Murray and Gordon are game-time decisions. If they can’t go, their backups get more minutes. Reggie Jackson has shaken off a slump and played well when stepping in for Murray. Christian Braun, who started for Gordon on Monday, has turned a corner from his poor play early in the season. Reggie Jackson has shaken off a slump and played well when stepping in for Murray. Christian Braun, who started for Gordon on Monday, has turned a corner from his poor play early in the season.

Braun was a key bench player during the title run last year but struggled at the start of this season. He has worked his way out of the rough part, scoring 17 points in each of the last two games and doing the little things that helped him be a valuable part of last year’s rotation.

“There wasn’t a shift, I’m just playing basketball the right way, showing up to work, doing the same thing I’ve done every day since I’ve been here,” Braun said after Monday’s 128-103 win over the Grizzlies. “Just continue to stay hungry, keep working, do what I do, stick with my routine. I knew that would happen. I was confident in my ability.”

–Field Level Media

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