PHOENIX (AP) -- Along with facing a team on its best 15-game run
since 1988, the Phoenix Suns had some adversity to overcome -- the
lack of their top scorer, and a trend toward lackadaisical play at
Marion had 30 points and 14 rebounds, and Johnson and Nash
accounted for all of Phoenix's points during a fourth-quarter run
that carried the Suns to a 123-114 victory over the revenge-minded
Denver Nuggets on Monday night.
"I was just really taking it upon myself," said Johnson, who
scored eight points in the 13-2 burst that lifted the Suns to a
115-109 lead with 2:34 left. "It wasn't, like, a set play or
anything. I was just getting the ball and trying to make plays."
The Suns snapped a Denver winning streak for the second time
this month. The Nuggets had won eight straight when Phoenix beat
them 106-101 in Denver on March 13, and they won their next six
before visiting Phoenix.
Nash had 23 points and 12 assists, helping offset the absence of
fellow All-Star Amare Stoudemire, who missed his first game this
season to rest a swollen left ankle that began troubling him during
Phoenix's win in Orlando on Saturday night.
"Most of the stuff he gets I was getting, like transition,"
Marion said. "Tonight I got the chance to run the floor and took
advantage of it."
Carmelo Anthony, who had only nine points against the Suns two
weeks ago, led the Nuggets with 22. Andre Miller had 19 points,
seven assists and six rebounds, and Marcus Camby had 14 points and
nine rebounds. Reserve Wesley Person had 14 points, and Earl
Boykins had 11 points and seven assists off the bench.
Boykins made a 3-pointer for a 91-89 lead with 10:48 left -- only
Denver's second since the first quarter -- and the Nuggets went up
107-102 on a layup by Boykins with 5:45 to go.
But Johnson had a 17-footer, a 3-pointer and a three-point play,
and Nash made two jumpers and a free throw over the next 3:11.
"We were trying to figure out how to beat Phoenix, who has the
best record in the NBA," coach George Karl said. "We did a good
job for three quarters, and then Johnson and Nash were perfect
there for about four minutes."
Anthony made a free throw to get within five points, but the win
was sealed when the Nuggets were called for a defensive technical
foul with 42.3 seconds left, and Karl was assessed another and
ejected for protesting.
Nash made both free throws, and Richardson drove from the wing
for a dunk seconds later.
"We just have to fight back and make sure we don't lose two in
a row," Person said. "Coach is a competitor. He's fiery like
Johnson's tip-in gave Phoenix a 22-21 lead with 1:02 left in the
first quarter, and the Suns led from then until the third.
But Denver kept stepping up. Bryon Russell had two 3-pointers
and a runner in 2½ minutes, Boykins made four free throws in 29
seconds, and Miller scored five points in 52 seconds. Miller tied
it at 85 and 87 with successive reverse layups, and Nene sent the
Nuggets to an 88-87 lead with a free throw with 23 seconds left,
leaving time for Johnson to make two free throws and get Phoenix
the lead 89-88 after three.
The Suns led by 51-41 in the second quarter before the Nuggets
rallied to get within one point at halftime.
"We should have gone into halftime 10 points ahead," Suns
coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We kind of had a mental breakdown."
Karl's record with Denver dipped to 21-6. ... Camby
returned after missing two games with a sprained ankle to start at
center, but Kenyon Martin, a starter, missed the game with a sore
chest. ... The Suns, who have an NBA-best 29-7 road record, are
just 8-7 in their last 15 home games and 24-9 overall. ... Marion
has 10 straight double-doubles, tying the second-best streak of his
career (2000-01), and Nash (11) has the NBA's longest active
double-doubles streak. ... Denver's Greg Buckner and Eduardo Najera
scored 10 points each.