Regular Season Series (Game 4 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

Nuggets 114

(48-33, 18-23 away)

Suns 128

(62-19, 31-10 home)

Coverage: ALT

7:00 PM ET, April 18, 2005

US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 25 32 31 26114
PHX 44 31 31 22128

Top Performers

Den: C. Anthony 36 Pts, 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl

PHX: S. Marion 18 Pts, 9 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl, 3 Blk

Phoenix gets home court throughout playoffs

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Phoenix Suns are putting a wrap on a remarkable regular season the same way they started it -- running, shooting and scoring like nobody else in the NBA.

The Suns clinched homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs before the first quarter against Denver ended on Monday night, then went on to blow out the Nuggets 128-114.

Joe Johnson scored 18 of his 26 points in a 44-point first quarter that showcased the Suns at their high-flying best. Phoenix shot 71 percent (17-for-24) in the quarter to take a 19-point lead.

"Joe just killed them," Phoenix guard Steve Nash said. "He got open and was just nailing 3s. There are so many weapons on our team, when a perimeter shooter makes shots like that, the finishers we have inside are very difficult to contend with."

The Nuggets trailed 75-57 at halftime and the Nuggets didn't get closer than 12 points after that, and that came in the final minute of the Suns' fifth straight victory.

"The way we lost tonight was embarrassing," Denver forward Carmelo Anthony said. "Seventy-five points in the first half, that's a little bit too much."

It was a win Phoenix didn't need to clinch the best record in the NBA, and the resulting homecourt postseason edge, because San Antonio lost at Memphis in a game that ended just when Suns' onslaught was gaining steam.

"Now we got it," Shawn Marion of the Suns said, "let's see what we do with it."

Amare Stoudemire scored 26 points, Marion had 18 and Quentin Richardson 16 in the Suns' 62nd victory of the season, tying the franchise record set by the 1992-93 team that made it to the NBA Finals. Nash had eight points and 13 assists, eight in the first quarter.

Johnson made his first six shots and was 7-for-8 in the first quarter, 4-of-5 from 3-point range.

"That might be one of my best quarters," Johnson said. "It was a lot of fun, I have to admit. My shot was falling, and guys were finding me. We had 44 points in the first quarter. You couldn't ask for too much better than that."

Suns coach Mike D'Antoni couldn't find anything to criticize in the first half.

"I don't think we can play any better than that," he said. "You'd have to ask Joe if he can play any better than that. I mean, it was mind-boggling. And the rest of them -- Steve Nash takes two shots and hits two 3s. We came out and really took care of business. I just feel like we're getting our energy and our focus back at a good time."

Nash and Marion sat out the entire fourth quarter for the second straight game. Stoudemire left with 10 minutes to play and Johnson with 8½ to go.

Anthony scored 33 points, Kenyon Martin had 22 and Andre Miller 17 for the Nuggets, 24-4 since the All-Star break with three of the losses to Phoenix. They have lost two straight for the first time since George Karl became coach on Jan. 28.

"We didn't take anything that they do well away from them," Karl said, "thinking maybe we can outrun and outshoot them, which personally I don't think is a way we should try to play Phoenix."

The Nuggets were without Marcus Camby for the second straight game. He was placed on the injured list Monday so Denver could activate Vashon Lenard for the first time since he tore his left Achilles' tendon in the season opener on Nov. 2. Lenard scored 14 points in 17 minutes.

The loss cemented Denver in the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference and a first-round series against San Antonio. Phoenix plays Memphis in the first round.

With about 2 minutes left in the first quarter, D'Antoni asked reporters on press row how the San Antonio-Memphis game came out. When told Memphis had won, he smiled and said, "I guess I can go sit down now."

He was kidding. D'Antoni was on his feet throughout the team's 31st home victory.

The Suns' 44 first-quarter points and 75 at halftime were a season high.

Phoenix outscored Denver 18-4 over the last 3:04 of the first quarter and first 2:29 of the second to go up 52-27 on Steven Hunter's layup with 9:59 left in the half.

Phoenix had a 16-3 advantage in fastbreak points in the period. Anthony scored 18 of his team's 25 first-quarter points.

Game notes

Phoenix's highest-scoring quarter this season is 46 in the third at Toronto on Jan. 30. ... The Suns sold out at home for the 26th time this season, 22nd in their last 25 games. Last season, they had six home sellouts. ... Phoenix swept the Nuggets (4-0) for the first time in four years. ... If Denver wins at home against Portland on Tuesday night, it will have its first 50-win season since 1987-88.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 114 128
FGM-FGA 42-97 (.433) 46-81 (.568)
3PM-3PA 4-10 (.400) 14-27 (.519)
FTM-FTA 26-30 (.867) 22-28 (.786)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 18-48 6-39
Assists 21 28
Turnovers 17 19
Steals 13 9
Blocks 1 5
Fast Break Points 20 25
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (0/0) 23 (0/0)
Largest Lead 0 27

Top Performers

Carmelo Anthony Anthony
Points: 36
Reb: 4
Ast: 1
Stl: 2
Blk: 0
Shawn Marion Marion
Points: 18
Reb: 9
Ast: 3
Stl: 3
Blk: 3