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Nuggets-Suns Preview

AP - Sports

A general lack of accuracy has kept the Denver Nuggets from being the scoring machine many thought they'd be, but they've still managed to win four straight after opening the season with three consecutive losses.

Perhaps they'll find their shooting touch against the Phoenix Suns.

Denver has shot better than 50 percent and averaged nearly 120 points during a six-game winning streak against the Suns heading into Monday night's matchup at US Airways Center.

The Nuggets (4-3) shot 42.7 percent while opening the season 0-3, and though they've connected on just 42.5 percent of their shots since then, they haven't lost. Denver shot 32.7 percent in the first half Saturday at Golden State, but held off the Warriors 107-101 in double overtime.

Golden State shot 38.2 percent for the game, the fourth time George Karl's team held an opponent under 39.0 percent. The Nuggets, who led the NBA in scoring last season but allowed the second-most points, only held eight teams below that mark last season.

"Our defense is winning us games," Karl told the league's official website. "Kenneth (Faried's) energy on the boards and the offensive rebounds are giving us extra possessions so that we can survive shooting the ball as poorly as we're shooting it right now."

Faried has certainly made a difference, averaging 17.8 points and 12.6 rebounds - more than half of which have come on the offensive end - in the past five games.

Faried helped the Nuggets sweep the Suns (3-4) last season, averaging 14.3 points and 10.3 boards in less than 27 minutes a game. Denver has won six straight in the series by an average of 15.4 points, putting up 119.7 points per game and shooting 50.8 percent.

Phoenix certainly doesn't figure to end that skid if it plays anything like it did Saturday. A night after rallying from 26 down to beat Cleveland, the Suns shot 36.8 percent and were outrebounded 52-37 in a 94-81 loss at Utah.

"I don't think we were flat,'' coach Alvin Gentry said. "You have to get the ball in the basket ... Our defense was pretty good. During one stretch (we made) eight out of 10 stops and we didn't make up any ground because we didn't get the ball in the basket on the other end.''

Phoenix's defense hasn't been good very often thus far. The Suns are allowing 103.4 points per game and opponents are shooting 43.5 percent from 3-point range - each among the worst marks in the NBA.

Gentry's team is shooting 30.3 percent from long distance, a problem that's partially due to the struggles of Michael Beasley. Looking to rejuvenate his career in Phoenix, Beasley isn't off to a very good start as he's averaged 12.9 points and shot 34.7 percent - 25.9 from deep.

Poor starts, in fact, might be the Suns' biggest issue. They're allowing an NBA-high 28.7 points per game in the first quarter, and have trailed by a combined 31 points after 12 minutes in their past two contests.

"It's very difficult. You give up one quarter or lose focus one quarter or two quarters, sometimes three quarters," forward Luis Scola said. "We were down 26 (Friday) and ended up winning, but how many times can you do that? We need to be more solid and play 48 minutes. If we play 48 minutes, we'll be OK."

Scola's numbers, surprisingly, have had little to do with Phoenix's success so far. The Suns are 0-4 when he scores at least 15 points and 3-0 when he scores 13 or fewer.

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