NBA: Injuries affect Nuggets-Suns Christmas Day matchup

Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets steps onto the field during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Ball Arena on October 22, 2022 in Denver, Colorado.

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets steps onto the field during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Ball Arena on October 22, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. Copyright 2022 NBAE Justin Tafoya/Getty Images/AFP

Last year, the Denver Nuggets had their reigning MVP but were dropped from the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule, which some saw as a snub.

The fact that Nikola Jokic won MVP for the second year in a row is too much for the NBA to ignore, so Denver is fixing on a full-day schedule of Sunday games. The Nuggets will host the Phoenix Suns in the late game, but they won’t be full of players.

Striker Jeff Green sprained his left finger and fractured his hand in Friday’s game and will be out for at least four weeks, so he won’t feature in the main game over Christmas.

“I love a TV game. Never say no but I’m not too worried about it,” said Jamal Murray. “Either I’m playing for Christmas or I’m spending a day with my family.”

Denver entered Sunday on a three-game winning streak and drew with Memphis for first place at the Western Conference. The Nuggets beat the Grizzlies on Tuesday without Murray, who is resting at his aching left knee, and Michael Porter Jr.

Porter missed 13 games because of a left heel strain but was back on Friday night against Portland. He scored 18 points in 27 minutes.

“It’s great to be out there,” Porter said. “I am very happy to be back.”

Murray had a top 12 assists of the season to pick up 25 points in the win and looked revived after not playing since Sunday when he scored just 6 and missed. all 6 of his 3 point efforts. He knows he will have bad games after missing last season due to an ACL tear.

“I accepted it,” Murray said. “It was (the media) that didn’t accept it because every time I had a bad game, ‘Oh my god. Oh, he’s not a good shot.’ I know I will have those days.”

Phoenix was beaten at home by the Grizzlies on Friday night, the third game in a row without Devin Booker due to groin pain. Even without Booker, coach Monty Williams felt the team needed to attack more aggressively from the start.

“We had to get back to chasing something and right now I feel like prey,” Williams said. “I don’t like that feeling. I told our boys the same thing. We had to regain our advantage right from the jump.

Sunday will be the first of four games between the teams this season. The Suns had topped the Western Conference for the previous two seasons and used that #1 seed to reach the 2021 NBA Finals.

Phoenix overcame the Nuggets in the second round of the 2021 knockout stages but that was without Murray, who had torn his left ACL a month earlier. Last season Porter played only nine games so Jokic was put in charge.

Booker leads the Suns in points (28.0) and assists (5.8) per game. He missed two games because of a hamstring strain, came back in two and then missed the last three. He scored a season-high 58 points against New Orleans on December 17.

Williams recently admitted that he played Booker “too many minutes. I can’t look at anyone else when I put players in danger.”


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