Thursday NBA on TNT Preview: Suns at Nuggets
by Matt Severance - 01/15/2009
Unfortunately, if you tune into TNT's coverage of the NBA on Thursday night, you won't get to see what is usually the best part of it: Charles Barkley.
You probably know by know that Barkley took a leave of absence from his studio spot after a recent drunk-driving arrest in Arizona. That's a shame, because Charles is arguably a bigger star now than he was when he was playing and always was good for a few laughs on screen. In addition, you won't see any Barkley T-Mobile commercials anytime soon, as the company has pulled all its "Fave 5" television ads involving Barkley and the Heat's Dwyane Wade.
OK, now that we have gotten that out of the way, on to what should be the game of the night Thursday on TNT: Phoenix at Denver. And don't look now, but Shaquille O'Neal again looks like Shaq of old. And you know why? His ass!
I'll let Shaq explain why he has suddenly found the fountain of youth when it comes to some low-post moves not seen since he arrived in the desert:
"A muscle in my (rear) wasn't firing," he explained. "So they left me for dead. 'He's old. He don't have it anymore.' Now I'm doing things I couldn't do last year because my (rear) wasn't firing."
No ifs, ands or butts about it, Shaq is rolling, averaging 23.1 points and 10.1 rebounds in the past 11 games. He has nine 20-point games this season (the Suns are 8-1 in those) after having eight all of last year and even is hitting his free throws. Since saying he reverted to his high school form, O'Neal has made 83 of 122 free throws (68 percent).
The Suns have won three games in a row, the fourth time this season they have had a win streak of three or more. They scored 107 Tuesday in beating Atlanta, surpassing the century mark for a seventh straight game.
"I think we're here now," forward Grant Hill said to the Arizona Republic. "I think we're a good team. We've got to get hot. Instead of winning three in a row, let's get eight, nine in a row or 10. We're capable. As a team, we're ready to do that. We're confident."
The Nuggets have won six of seven games, including beating the Mavericks by two on Tuesday night. The news from that game was an elbow that Denver's J.R. Smith threw toward the Mavs' Antoine Wright near the end of the second quarter. That brought Dallas owner Mark Cuban on the court barking at the Denver players and sending a tape to the league asking for a suspension.
Nuggets coach George Karl doesn't expect any suspension because he didn't see any contact. And he expects to start Smith in Carmelo Anthony's spot again on Thursday ahead of Linas Kleiza. Oh, and he gave a warning to Cuban.
"I have no problem with him judging that that was a play that should be sent to the league office. But stay away from my players, stay off the court," Karl said to the Denver Post. "I think Cuban's going off on something that happens almost every game. There was no contact, it wasn't even close."
There also was a Birdman sighting in that Denver game Tuesday as the Nuggets' Chris Andersen played 21 minutes, scoring season-high 15 points and adding 10 rebounds, as well as three steals and two blocks. He could become a valuable contributor for Denver, kind of a pseudo-Marcus Camby.
The Nuggets and Suns played once earlier this season in Phoenix. Denver lost 108-101 as Amare Stoudemire dominated inside for Phoenix. Shaq added 19 points and nine rebounds.
The Nuggets are listed as 1.5-point favorites by the oddsmakers and the total has been set at 218.5. The favorite is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings in this series, while Phoenix is 0-4 ATS in the past four in the Mile High City. The over is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings.