Phoenix Suns 12/23 Game Recap: this team needs backup

The Phoenix Suns could hypothetically make the playoffs, but their lack of star-power gives them less room for error than other teams in the Western Conference. A trade for someone like Kevin Love offers them a chance to reboot their season after 7 straight losses.

The Phoenix Suns lost 113-111 to the Denver Nuggets Monday night to drop them to 11-19 in their 7th consecutive loss.

Phoenix trailed Denver from the end of the first quarter to the beginning of the fourth quarter, when a Frank Kaminsky (8) jump shot allowed the Suns to retake the lead.

The result was a wild fourth quarter that ended with a Jamal Murray (27) long 2 in the last few seconds to seal the Suns’ fate. 

Check out my coverage of the game on Twitter.

Denver point guard Murray and center Nikola Jokic (15) led all scorers with 28 and 22 points, respectively. Point guard Ricky Rubio (11) led the Suns with 21 points, while 7 players scored double digits. Jevon Carter (4) recorded 5 points off the bench. Game stats can be found on ESPN

A lot can be said about this game, but the main takeaway is that Phoenix is a genuinely good team. They just aren’t as good as the teams they’re facing. 

The Western Conference is still as cutthroat as ever, even as the talent seems more evenly spread than in prior years. No team embodies that more than the Phoenix Suns, who went from a 19-63 train wreck in the 2018-2019 season to a team capable of beating teams like the (Paul George-less) Los Angeles Clippers

The Suns fought hard and kept the game competitive, but in the end, they fell to a Denver team that looks more and more like a potential Finals contender each game they play.

Denver Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray (27)’s game-winning shot. Photo by: Micah Wilcox

The core pieces of a winning team are here in Rubio, guard Devin Booker (1) and small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (3) (among others), but without genuine All-Star-caliber talent to help consistently anchor the team, the Suns lack the margin of error other teams have. This was on display tonight in multiple ways: for starters, center and 2018 number one pick DeAndre Ayton (22) was nowhere to be found as he recovers from a right ankle sprain.

In the meantime, Booker had zero points until exploding midway through the 3rd quarter to end the game with 11 points, while Oubre Jr. seemed incapable of getting the majority of his shots to go in. He finished with 14 points.

Too often, it seemed like Rubio was the only one consistently bringing up the ball. Booker, to his credit, spread the ball around, but Rubio looked like the primary orchestrator of the offense. 

In contrast, Denver made a strong case for why they’re currently the second seed in the Western Conference: fluid ball movement and multiple shot creators and scorers allowed for everyone from Nikola Jokic to Paul Millsap to score (including the most vicious dunk of the night by Jerami Grant).

More than anything else, Denver’s shots went in while Phoenix’s didn’t: Denver had a 55.1% field goal percentage on 43-78 shooting and went 15-28 from the deep for 53.6% shooting.

In contrast, Phoenix made 48.3% of its field goals on 42-87 shooting, and shot 35.1% on 13-37 from beyond the arc. 

Denver looked like the better team last night, but much of that can be attributed to the fact that Denver took fewer shots and more of them went in. Phoenix fought hard and was close to pulling out a win; that should not be ignored.

The Suns look one or two players away from being a serious playoff contender, and the Suns should explore their options at the trade deadline. 

At 11th place in the Western Conference standings, behind Portland, San Antonio, and Sacramento, and with New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday and Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love are apparently available on the trade market (among others), Phoenix has the tools to break this losing streak and muscle their way back into the playoffs. General Manager James Jones and his front office just need to play their cards right going into the new year.

The Suns play the Goldens State Warriors in San Francisco on Friday, December 27 at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Featured image by Micah Wilcox

Posted by Micah Wilcox

High school senior & proud Southern Californian. Founder of Fan of all things technology, geopolitics, and Marvel Comics.