Two teams at opposite ends of the Western Conference spectrum play Saturday night when the Denver Nuggets visit the Phoenix Suns. The recent history of the series has been as lopsided as the current standings indicate.
The Nuggets (28-12) will be looking for a third straight win this season over the Suns (10-33) and an 11th victory in 12 meetings. Another issue for the Suns: Point guard Devin Booker (24.8 points, 6.9 assists per game) did not practice Friday and was considered doubtful to play Saturday.
Denver will be led on the road by Nikola Jokic, who in his last six games has recorded three triple-doubles and three double-doubles, averaging 25.8 points, 12.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists.
Jokic's first of five triple-doubles this season came against the Suns in a 119-91 home blowout in the first week of the schedule.
The big man's rival, Suns rookie Deandre Ayton, was saddled with foul trouble much of that game and finished with just five points and eight rebounds.
Jokic came within two rebounds and one assist of recording another triple-double when the Nuggets made it two in a row over the Suns with a win in Phoenix in December.
But that game was much closer -- 122-118 -- thanks to Ayton's 33-point, 14-rebound performance on a night when he outscored Jokic by 10.
If the Nuggets are at any disadvantage in the third meeting Saturday, it could be from an incentive standpoint.
Their next two games are against Portland and Golden State, the latter currently holding down the No. 2 spot in the West behind the Nuggets.
And they're coming off a high-priority, 121-100 shellacking of the Los Angeles Clippers in a revenge game that coach Michael Malone made sure his guys had circled on their calendars.
"I texted each and every one of our players (the day before the game) and reminded them about (a 132-111 road loss to the Clippers in the previous meeting)," Malone said to reporters after Thursday's win. "It was definitely on their minds. We got that game back, which is great to see."
The Suns, meanwhile, walked off the court in Dallas on Wednesday night wishing they could get their 104-94 loss back.
Suns coach Igor Kokoskov thought his team played well enough to win the game, only to be undone by a 45-21 disparity in free throws. The Mavericks outscored Phoenix 32-15 at the line.
Kokoskov admitted after the game that the Suns have complained to the NBA office about a free throw imbalance in many of their games. They have allowed the second-most fouls shots per game (27.4), while shooting the fourth-fewest (20.1).
"We're going into an area in which I wouldn't go too deep in discussing it with the media," he said, "but we have a daily communication with the league office."
The Nuggets took 12 more foul shots (26-14) and scored 11 more points on free throws (20-9) in their four-point win in Phoenix last month.
For the season, Denver's free throw numbers have been much more balanced, with 21.9 attempts per game, while allowing 22.4.
The Suns have just one win in their last eight games, but that came in their most recent home outing, a 115-111 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.
--Field Level Media