Jan 19, 2014 10:00 AM by Greg Smith
Defensive struggles have played a large role in the Denver Nuggets cooling off.
That's also been plaguing the Phoenix Suns, who will seek just their second win in six games overall and third in as many tries this season against the visiting Nuggets on Sunday night.
Denver (20-19) has allowed at least 116 points in three straight games, losing two of them. The Nuggets had surrendered an average of 93.3 points in the previous three as part of a five-game winning streak.
They gave up 42 points in the second quarter Friday of a 117-109 home loss to Cleveland. Denver failed to force more than 13 turnovers for the fifth straight game and is among the league's worst in that category (13.6 per game).
"I don't think our offense was hurting us, it's defense," coach Brian Shaw said after his team gave up 50 points in the paint. "Middle penetration hurt us all night. ... We're a team that tries to keep the ball out of the middle and we weren't able to do that."
Wilson Chandler had a season-high 23 points after scoring 22 in Wednesday's 123-116 win at Golden State.
Ty Lawson had his eighth double-double in nine games with 19 points and 11 assists, but he was annoyed the Nuggets lost to another sub-.500 team. They fell at Western Conference-worst Utah on Monday.
"These games should be in the win column," Lawson said. "We just keep letting easy games go. Our last month is tough, we've got to get these games right now."
Lawson might feel similarly about the matchup with Phoenix, which is 3-6 since losing point guard Eric Bledsoe (knee).
Denver has topped 100 points in all nine games this month, averaging 115.0, and faces a Suns team giving up 107.2 per game while losing four of five. The four opponents to visit Phoenix this month have shot a combined 50.3 percent.
The Suns (22-17), though, played pretty well defensively to win the first two meetings, holding Denver to 43.0 percent shooting and forcing an average of 18.0 turnovers. Phoenix entered the season having lost eight of nine in the series.
The Suns hit a combined 21 3-pointers in those two victories but have been struggling from beyond the arc, going 18 of 71 (25.4 percent) in the last three games. They missed 15 of 22 attempts Friday in a 110-107 loss to Dallas.
"We need to attack the basket more and we are in kind of a shooting slump right now," coach Jeff Hornacek said. "If you get those easy ones and now, all of a sudden, you go outside and you get a few."
Goran Dragic had 28 points but missed all four of his 3-point tries. Channing Frye is 3 for 15 on 3s in the last three games.
Markieff Morris has totaled 47 points in the last two games and has averaged 26.5 against Denver this season while shooting 59.3 percent.
Lawson is averaging 21.8 points on 57.7 percent shooting in his last five visits to Phoenix, including a season-high 29 in a 114-103 loss Nov. 8.