Indianapolis Star
National Basketball Association
Preview
Phoenix at Denver
When: 9:00 PM ET, Saturday, October 20, 2018
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

The Denver Nuggets have all the pieces in place to make a run at a playoff spot in the Western Conference and will go as far as their defense takes them. The Nuggets will try to stay strong on that end of the floor and open the season with back-to-back victories when they host the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.

Denver finished one game out of a playoff spot last spring while finishing last in the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage (47.6) but held the Los Angeles Clippers to 39.8 percent from the floor en route to a 107-98 victory to open the 2018-19 campaign on Wednesday. "When you close the game on that kind of a run, that speaks to getting timely defensive stops," Nuggets coach Mike Malone told reporters. "We did a much better job in the second half of gang rebounding. They only had two second-chance points the whole second half. We valued the ball and guys stepped up and made some big, big plays." That defense will have to find a way to stop Suns shooting guard Devin Booker, who scored 19 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 121-100 win over Dallas. "You're just in that zone, man, trying to win the game," Booker told reporters. "My idea this year to get the most wins as possible and make the playoffs. We owe that to this city. It's been a long drought for these fans. I know that comes with a lot of responsibility for me."

TV: 9 p.m. ET, FS Arizona (Phoenix), Altitude (Denver)

ABOUT THE SUNS (1-0): Booker, who signed a five-year contract extension over the summer to be the centerpiece of the franchise's rebuild, is getting some help on the interior from No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton. The Arizona product collected 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, 10 rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes in his NBA debut. "I knew he was something special," Booker told reporters of Ayton. "I think people are always nervous for their first game. ... When you are that talented and have the abilities that he does, the game is just going to come to you."

ABOUT THE NUGGETS (1-0): Denver's defensive effort began in the frontcourt on Wednesday, with former All-Star Paul Millsap making up for a 1-of-7 shooting night by grabbing 16 rebounds. "I've been around for a while," Millsap told the Denver Post. "I know when things aren't going well, when shots aren't falling, I try to do something else." The backcourt picked up some of the offensive slack as Will Barton and Gary Harris combined for 39 points and made some key stops, including Harris forcing a turnover down the stretch that helped seal the win.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Nuggets C Nikola Jokic collected 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the opener.

2. Phoenix SF Trevor Ariza recorded 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in his team debut.

3. Denver took two of the three meetings last season.

PREDICTION: Nuggets 116, Suns 109
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Day Night Div Conf
Phoenix 1-0 W1 1-0 0-0 0-0 1-0 0-0 1-0
Denver 1-0 W2 0-0 1-0 0-0 1-0 0-0 1-0
Last Meeting
Phoenix Denver
Date Away Home Pts Reb FG% Pts Reb FG%
2/10/18 DEN 123 PHO 113 113 36 54.8 123 37 51.1
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Phoenix T. Warren 31 76.5 5
Denver W. Chandler 26 73.3 1
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Phoenix D. Bender 8 4 4
Denver N. Jokic 9 1 8
Assists Player  
Phoenix E. Payton 9
Denver N. Jokic 8
Season
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Phoenix D. Ayton 88 61.8 20
Denver N. Jokic 74 53.5 22
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Phoenix D. Ayton 44 13 31
Denver T. Lyles 36 2 34
Assists Player  
Phoenix J. Jackson 25
Denver N. Jokic 20
Quickchart Matchup
Phoenix Phoenix Off vs  Denver Denver Defense
Phoenix Off vs Denver - Points For 121.0 Points For
Phoenix Off vs Denver - Points Against 98.0 Points Against
Phoenix - FG% 54.3 FG%
Denver - FG% 40.2 FG%
Phoenix - Reb 44.0 Reb
Denver - Reb 47.0 Reb
Denver Denver Off vs  Phoenix Phoenix Defense
Denver Off vs Phoenix - Points For 107.0 Points For
Denver Off vs Phoenix - Points Against 100.0 Points Against
Denver - FG% 37.9 FG%
Phoenix - FG% 43.2 FG%
Denver - Reb 56.0 Reb
Phoenix - Reb 38.0 Reb