Suns hope to avoid season sweep by Nuggets

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The young Phoenix Suns welcome the Denver Nuggets and Most Valuable Player contender Nikola Jokic into Talking Stick Resort Arena on Saturday for the second game of a weekend back-to-back.

Phoenix blasted the Houston Rockets on the first leg Friday, 127-91, snapping a four-game losing skid.

Kelly Oubre Jr. scored a career-high 39 points in the rout and shot 7 of 9 from behind the 3-point line. Devin Booker added 33 points and shot 4 of 8 from outside. Held to 91 points by the Suns, the Rockets scored a season low.

“Us just playing within the coach’s system, and just being in attack mode, staying aggressive,” Oubre told reporters when describing the keys to his performance on Friday. “I’m honored, but we’ve got to win [Saturday], too.”

Phoenix comes into Saturday’s matchup looking to avoid a season sweep to the Nuggets, who won 108-107 in overtime on Oct. 26, 116-104 on Nov. 24 and 113-111 on Dec. 23. The Suns also seek their first 2-0 result from a back-to-back this season.

They are 2-5 in the second game of back-to-backs, including the Nov. 24 loss at Denver.

As for the Nuggets, they come into Phoenix off two days rest and fresh from a signature win.

The short-handed Nuggets won Wednesday in Salt Lake City for the first time in 10 tries, outlasting the Utah Jazz 98-95 for a victory that Denver coach Michael Malone said was indicative of the team’s resilience.

“To come in here, and have seven guys out there, and all seven guys we don’t win the game without the plays each one of them made,” Malone told reporters in his postgame press conference. “I’ve said it a lot recently, but this is our new, best win of the year.”

Denver rallied from down eight points at halftime despite playing without Paul Millsap, Michael Porter Jr., Jerami Grant, Will Barton and Mason Plumlee. Millsap and Grant are upgraded to probable ahead of Saturday’s game, while Plumlee, Porter and Barton are all out.

Jokic carried the load with 30 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists. He is just the third player since the NBA-ABA merger to record a 30-20-10 triple-double, and it was his fourth triple-double in a two-week span.

Jokic finished with 39 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in a Feb. 2 loss at Detroit; 24 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a Jan. 26 win over Houston; and 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a Jan. 22 loss at Houston.

“It was a good win, especially before the break,” Jokic said in his postgame press conference after the victory over the Jazz. “It’s the perfect time to steal some victories, and this is the one we kind of stole.”

In Phoenix, Denver draws an opponent with its own litany of injuries. Post players Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky are out, forcing Suns coach Monty Williams to utilize smaller lineups when starting center Deandre Ayton is not on the floor.

Phoenix was also without Dario Saric and Tyler Johnson on Friday. Cameron Johnson and Ty Jerome played limited minutes after being initially listed as doubtful.

–Field Level Media

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