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Game of the Day: April 13

Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns — 10:30 PM eastern, telecast on TNT

With only two days left in the regular season, the playoff race out west is only getting more exciting. Only one-and-a-half games separate second from fifth place, and these two teams are in the thick of it.

Both the Nuggets and Suns come in having won their last games, and they’ve both been hot of late. The Nuggets are 7-3 in their last ten, and the Suns one-up them at 8-2.

Denver features, of course, Carmelo at the 3-spot along with Chauncey Billups. Kenyon Martin will play in his third game back from injury, but it is yet unclear whether he will be in the starting lineup. If he is not, Johan Petro will, once again, fill in for him there.

The Suns bring in a deep team, led, of course, by Steve Nash and a resurgent Amar’e Stoudemire — who has been lighting up the league since the all-star break. Once again, center Robin Lopez will not play, and his status for the playoffs remains undetermined.

The Suns have taken two of the previous three against the Nuggets by a combined 28 points, despite Stoudemire’s being held to 20 point or fewer in both contests. The strong front-court defense of Martin and Nene was surely responsible for that.

Nevertheless, Denver needs to apply its toughness across the board to subdue Phoenix’s relentless offense and come away with the W. If Steve Nash is allowed to get in to a rhythm and take over, forget about it.

I think the Suns will win this one. They have the momentum of having won the two most recent matchups with the Nuggets, and Denver has seemed to play less inspired basketball with Adrian Dantley on the sidelines rather than George Karl.

If Phoenix does manage a win, that could make things very interesting as far as seedings go in the Western Conference, as the boys from Arizona would move one game ahead of the Nuggets, and all they’d have to do is win on Wednesday to keep hold of the advantage over Denver, as tomorrow will be the Nuggets’ final game.

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