Rocky Mountain High: Suns Face the Surging Nuggets in Denver Tonight

If there's one team that's benefited the most this season from a trade, it's the Denver Nuggets.

On November 3, 2008, nine-time NBA All-Star guard Allen Iverson was dealt to the Detroit Pistons for guard Chauncey Billups (pictured), forward Antonio McDyess, and center Cheikh Samb. (McDyess never suited up in a powder-blue Denver uniform, deciding instead to return to the Pistons.) The impact Billups has made on the team -- and Iverson's emotional baggage that went bye-bye since he'd worn out his welcome in the Rocky Mountain city -- turned an iffy ball club into a very powerful and dangerous squad.

The unselfish Billups, an 11-year pro who played his college ball at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is averaging 18.5 points and 6.8 assists per game. His willingness to dish the rock to dynamic forward Carmelo Anthony -- who leads the team with a per-game points average of 21.1 -- and center Nene Hilario (14.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest) has powered Denver to first place in the Northwest Division with a 26-13 wins-losses differential.

The Nuggets -- winners of six of their past seven, including a 99-97 triumph over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night -- may prove to be a tough matchup for the Suns during tonight's donnybrook in Denver. The key for the Suns is their ability to bottle up Anthony, which they did beautifully during a 108-101 December 20 conquest at US Airways Center. The Nuggets' leading scorer only tallied 10 points that night.

For the Suns, their biggest matchup advantage is at shooting guard. The more athletic Jason Richardson -- at 17 points a game -- is better than 10 points over his counterpart Dahntay Jones. This should prove huge, as long as J-Rich's on point behind the arc.

The Suns shoot for four wins in a row when they visit the Denver Nuggets at their house - the Pepsi Center - beginning at 8:30 p.m. tonight. National TV: TNT. Radio: KTAR-620 AM.

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Steve Jansen
Contact: Steve Jansen