Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 4)

Series starts 12/20

Game 1: Monday, December 20th
Game 2: Sunday, March 13th
Game 3: Monday, March 28th
Game 4: Monday, April 18th

Suns 106

(48-15, 25-7 away)

Nuggets 101

(32-30, 19-10 home)

    Coverage: ALT

    7:00 PM ET, March 13, 2005

    Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

    1 2 3 4 T
    PHX 27 26 29 24106
    DEN 23 29 25 24101

    Top Performers

    PHX: S. Nash 25 Pts, 6 Reb, 11 Ast, 1 Blk

    Den: E. Boykins 20 Pts, 2 Reb, 9 Ast, 3 Stl

    Phoenix takes over best record in NBA

    DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Nuggets are pushing for the playoffs. Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns gave them a not-so-nice taste of what it might be like if they get there.

    Ailing from the flu and playing with a sore hamstring, Nash took over the game in the last 7 minutes Sunday night, scoring 10 of his 25 points over that span to help Phoenix snap Denver's eight-game winning streak with a 106-101 victory.

    "I thought we did a really good job of being competitive down the stretch and that's what it takes," Nash said. "We're talented. We're super-competitive, and we can dig games out like that."

    Nash also had 11 assists -- three key ones down the stretch -- as the Suns won for the fifth time in six games and took a half-game lead over San Antonio for the best record in the NBA.

    Playing with an injured knee, Kenyon Martin had 21 points for Denver. Earl Boykins had 20 points, but shot only 6-for-19 from the floor for the Nuggets, who fell a half-game behind the Lakers for eighth in the West.

    Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony scored only nine points on 2-for-10 shooting, and spent the final minutes on the bench -- not the first time coach George Karl has chosen to finish a close game that way since he arrived.

    "I'm not saying I'm right or wrong. I'm just saying that's the way I coached the game," Karl said. "I had my ingredients. I made my choices."

    One of the choices was Wesley Person. The newly acquired shooter made three 3-pointers as part of a 13-3 run that put the Nuggets ahead 90-85 with 7:02 left.

    That's when Nash started commanding the game, the way he has often in this, his first season since leaving Dallas and rejoining his original NBA team, the Suns, as a free agent.

    He hit a 3-pointer and a spinning layup to tie it at 90. Minutes later, he made a sweet, spinning move and saw Shawn Marion (19 points, 15 rebounds) open for an easy score and a 96-92 lead. A few minutes after that, Nash spotted Quentin Richardson for an open 3-pointer that went for a 102-97 lead with 1:10 left.

    Denver drew to 104-101 and Nash finally missed with about 10 seconds left. Denver got the ball to Andre Miller in transition, but his 3-pointer missed badly and Denver's longest winning streak since 1987-88 was over.

    "It's good to get a win against a team that has been playing good," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said.

    Joe Johnson had 23 points and 11 rebounds for Phoenix, which won a thriller in Denver in December when Richardson hit a tip-in at the buzzer for a two-point victory. That was viewed as one of the best games of the season, and this one wasn't far behind.

    Martin waved his hands and got the crowd pumped up after a call went against Denver early in the fourth, and that triggered the run that put the Nuggets ahead by five.

    The Suns let the emotion get to them. Richardson got called for a technical with 5:47 left after Phoenix fouled Boykins, who made two free throws to put Denver ahead 92-90.

    Some teams might have folded, but the Suns didn't. They overcame a little dry spell, then let Nash take over. A few minutes later, Phoenix walked away a winner and D'Antoni improved to 2-0 this season against his former team, with two games in Phoenix left.

    Nash said he was sick Saturday night and Sunday morning, but the hamstring that has been bothering him for the last month or so started feeling better as the day went on.

    "I actually had a little freedom to move and that was the best I've felt physically, other than being sick," he said. "I had some strength tonight so I feel really positive about that."

    The Nuggets are 15-5 since Karl became coach on Jan. 27. They have climbed back into the thick of the playoff race. This was the first of a seven-game homestand during which Karl thought the real push would begin. Despite the ahead-of-schedule improvements, the coach gave the impression that the wins could be masking problems -- problems that may have led to Anthony's benching.

    "I hate our offense. I can't stand how we play," Karl said. "We've got to change our habits in certain areas. I want us to play together and not apart, and too many times, we play apart."

    Game notes

    This was Denver's first loss since Doug Moe returned to the bench as Karl's assistant. ... Denver center Marcus Camby missed the game with a hamstring injury. ... Marion's status was a gametime decision because of a knee injury.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 106 101
    FGM-FGA 41-89 (.461) 37-93 (.398)
    3PM-3PA 5-18 (.278) 9-21 (.429)
    FTM-FTA 19-28 (.679) 18-26 (.692)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 16-58 9-41
    Assists 20 25
    Turnovers 13 7
    Steals 3 11
    Blocks 5 4
    Fast Break Points 21 25
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 17 (2/0) 22 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 12 6

    Top Performers

    Steve Nash Nash
    Points: 25
    Reb: 6
    Ast: 11
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1
    Earl Boykins Boykins
    Points: 20
    Reb: 2
    Ast: 9
    Stl: 3
    Blk: 0