The Phoenix Suns haven't fared too well against the Denver Nuggets the last two seasons, leading to justified apprehension coming into tonight's game. Justified or not, the Suns put those doubts and the Nuggets to rest.
In what has become an unsettling trend, the Suns got down early to the Nuggets by yielding a 16-6 run to start the game. Phoenix settled down quickly, though, as Goran Dragic scored 10 first quarter points to get the Suns back in the game before he was banished to the bench with two fouls with three minutes left in the quarter. That would be the last of Dragic for the first half, as Gentry chose to go with the
perplexing decision hot hand of Sebastian Telfair for the rest of the first half. To his credit, Telfair did play some feisty defense and didn't manage to undermine the team's success too much.
The Suns hung around in the first half, despite underwhelming shooting (39.6%), by taking advantage of second opportunities and went into the half with an 8-4 edge on the offensive glass. Both teams took care of the basketball (only five TOs each) and the Suns seemed to make a concerted effort to force the issue of taking the ball to the basket.
Denver had decided advantages in fast break points and points in the paint, yet they led only 57-54.
The third quarter saw Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley get into the mix, after poor shooting efforts in the first half, with 13 of the Suns 24 points in the quarter. The play was punctuated by a swarming defensive effort from the Suns, who were spry and spunky. It was the Suns best quarter of the game, despite the fact that Telfair sat, and they outscored the Nuggets 29-21.
The Nuggets tried to make a game of it in the fourth quarter, but in the end the Suns pulled away thanks to an impressive final four minutes.
It was poetic justice in the end as Dragic (21 points, 7 assists) led the team to victory, including a huge three to make the score 100-96 with 3:10 left and a jumper to help ice the game at the 1:40 mark, while Telfair cheered on from the bench. Not to be forgotten was the contribution by the much maligned Markieff Morris, who chipped in with 13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and the best +/- of any Sun (+24).
In the end it was offensive rebounds (15-9), turnovers (6-15) and brilliant execution down the stretch that won the day in the Suns 110-100 triumph.
This was an important victory for the Suns to even their record at 4-4 against a team that has given them fits, and by fits I mean ass whippings, for the last two seasons. It not only exorcised the Denver demons, but gave the Suns their first win against what appears to be a quality opponent. The result matched the effort and the fans got free tacos.