PHOENIX -- The Suns are getting energy from an unexpected source in their strong start to the season.
Markieff Morris scored 14 of his career-high 28 points in the fourth quarter as Phoenix came back from an 11-point deficit late in the third after leading by as many as 18 in the first couple of minutes of the second half. His effort was a big part of the 51 points scored by the Suns' bench players.
"We'll take it," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "They play with energy. That's what we need them to do, is just continue to play as hard as they can. When they're out there it's a pretty small lineup, which I think makes them all think `I have to go rebound and I have to help out' and then they're just much more active."
Markieff Morris added 10 rebounds and made 10 of 13 shots. Marcus Morris scored 11 points and grabbed eight boards. The brothers combined for five steals, and reserve guard Ish Smith had eight and four assists in only 12 minutes, 27 seconds on the court.
"He's doing a nice job of not just floating around the 15- to 18-foot range looking for a jump shot," Hornacek said of Markieff Morris. "He's playing under control. Markieff's not forcing anything."
Phoenix (4-2) got 46 points from its reserves in a loss at San Antonio on Wednesday and in the three games prior, totaled 40, 35 and 35 points from its bench players.
The Suns led 64-47 at halftime but got outscored 40-20 in the third quarter. Ty Lawson scored 21 of his 29 points in the period to vault the Nuggets back into the lead.
"We can't give up that many points in a quarter," said guard Gerald Green, typically a reserve but pressed into a starting role Friday. "Our bench was huge. We're going to need that for the rest of the season to be one of those good teams in the West."
The fourth quarter saw both teams matching baskets until Marcus Morris hit a jumper with 5:13 to play that gave the Suns a 100-95 lead and jump-started a strong finish.
Jordan Hamilton scored 19 points for Denver, which fell to 1-4.
"The fourth quarter killed us again," Lawson said. "The third quarter we were up 10 and I should have managed the game better. We took a lot of quick shots and turned the ball over."
The Suns trailed 87-76 before closing out the third quarter with an 8-0 run. Smith converted a three-point play and Markieff Morris made a layup off a steal.
Phoenix got off to a quick start.
Plumlee scored 10 points in the first quarter, including a pair of three-point plays when he twice took Denver big man Timofey Mozgov off the dribble for a basket and a foul.
The Suns made 14 of 24 first-quarter shots, one of them a high-flying dunk by Green on a lob from P.J. Tucker. Phoenix's 35 points marked its most in an opening period this season.
Phoenix went ahead 57-45 on a pick-and-roll layup by Plumlee. The Suns took their largest lead of the half when Markieff Morris leaped to grab the high carom from a missed free throw and slammed the ball home for a 64-46 lead.
"I told our team we lost that game in the first half," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. "We gave up 65 points in the first half and 35 points in the first quarter. Low energy once again.
"I am at a loss of words from the lack of energy from some of our rotation guys. ... I will go down the bench and find the guys who want to play."
The Suns played without starting guard Goran Dragic, who warmed up before the game but is still dealing with a sprained left ankle. Dragic has now missed the past three games but could be ready as soon as the Suns' next game against New Orleans on Sunday. Green started in his place. . Hornacek is the first Suns head coach to begin his tenure 3-0 at home since Scott Skiles in 1999-2000. The Suns opened 3-0 at home for the first time since the 2009-2010 season.