Phoenix Suns 117, Denver Nuggets 103 – Frye cookin'

PHOENIX – Jeff Hornacek had been a sideline stalking coach in the last few games. His Phoenix Suns were frustrating to watch, struggling to get plays called in and showing flashes of doing things right then reverting away from what had kept them in the game.

But in a 117-103 win against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, Hornacek found his seat too cozy to leave.

Very few times did he stand up to chase down the officials, and he wasn’t often tossing his hands up in the air when his Suns flubbed up a simple play.

Denver instead was the frustrating team to watch, especially on the defensive end in allowing Phoenix to shoot 50.5 percent from the field. The Nuggets struggled most with Channing Frye, who broke out of a mighty shooting slump to score 30 points on 12-for-16 shooting.

The weird thing was, he and the Suns starters didn’t need to play in the fourth quarter.

Though the score was close until the Suns’ bench unit of Ish Smith, Leandro Barbosa, Alex Len and the Morris twins put the Nuggets away – that’s seriously a thing that happened – Hornacek’s team seemed in control throughout.

Going up by 14 points after a burst to start the third-quarter didn’t amount to much for the Suns. Despite holding the Nuggets to 30.8 percent shooting in the period, Phoenix actually lost a bit of their 62-56 halftime advantage heading into the fourth quarter leading just 84-79.

Then, a fourth-quarter burst orchestrated by Smith pushed Phoenix over the top.

Here’s how my pregame questions were answered.

Which Nuggets team shows up?

Phoenix started the game on an 8-0 run, validating all the concerns over the Nuggets’ defense. The first half seemed relatively competitive, but both teams were shooting at least 50 percent by halftime.

The Suns committed just five turnovers in each half. They came out of the locker room at halftime on a tear, going on a 9-1 run starting with a Gerald Green three-pointer and three shots at the rim. The 71-57 lead didn’t last as Denver cut it back to five heading to the fourth quarter.

Phoenix started fast and finished even faster, and the result was a significant win in terms of the Western Conference standings.

Who are the second and third scoring options for Phoenix?

Nothing like the Denver Nuggets’ defense to break a player out of a major funk.

The Suns’s usual first option, Goran Dragic, played reasonably within the offense but it was Channing Frye who became the Nuggets’ worst nightmare, scoring 18 first-half points and pumping in four three-pointers. It was the perfect medicine for Frye to play against a defense that had been giving up 119.3 points per game in the last three outings.

Meanwhile, Markieff Morris also beat up the Denver power forward crew. He continued his second-best stretch of the year with 16 points, and brother Marcus scored 10, all in the fourth.

There were a few more storylines in terms of the Phoenix bench unit. Leandro Barbosa scored 13 points to go with four rebounds and three assists in his first game back in U.S. Airways Center as a Sun since the 2010 playoff run. Smith scored seven points, and grabbed seven rebounds. He added five assists as the Phoenix bench outscored Denver 33-24 in the fourth quarter.

And then there was Alex Len. The rookie looked like he was ready to break through two games ago before being ejected in the Nick Young fiasco, and on Sunday he appeared as if he was up to getting fined again. On a fastbreak dunk attempt, he was pulled down by Nuggets guard Nate Robinson and looked like he’d get the boot after getting back up and confronting the feisty point guard.

Instead, Robinson earned a flagrant, and Len scored nine points to go with six rebounds. Four of those boards were offensive. Phoenix had an 8-0 second-chance point advantage in the fourth quarter alone.

How does Dragic and Co. handle Ty Lawson?

On one play in the first half, Dragic picked Lawson’s pocket off questionable screen action and got his body in front of the speedy Nuggets point guard for ¾ court while outrunning him and then finishing at the cup.

Dragic finished with 15 points, six dimes and two steals while needing just 24 minutes on the court. Lawson finished with 17 points and 14 assists but went 6-for-14 from the floor.

  • foreveris2long

    Major props to Frye and the bench tonight. Ish and Barbosa manning the backcourt in the 4th quarter. Len starting to get basketball legs allowing him to be active on the glass. I love the fact he plays with an edge. Markief is starting to believe in his ability to score in the paint. Great win.

  • the real al

    Even if the suns play 500. ball from here on out, they’ll make the playoffs. Probly enough to make the 8th seed. Believe me. Lets go suns!!

    On a side note my broncos heading to the superbowl!!!

  • EBJM

    Forget about trying to teach Miles how to shoot! I hope Alex Len’s ankles are healed, that kid is going to be a baller.

  • BCrayZ

    Gogi was not at his best.

    Just look at the disparity of Ty more than doubling him in assists.

    Frye made so many shots that Gogi should have easily had a double-double for the game. Just remember how reenergized Gogi was the last time (in New York) that he played with “The Blur.” This time, it was Ish who benefited from playing with Barbosa, to finish the game. Give Gogi a break & move LB into Eric’s spot. Even Frye will play better,. although don’t ask me how he can improve upon this 30 point (on only 16 shots – including a tip in) plus 3 blocked shots game. Make it so Jeff. WECOME HOME BLUR!!!!

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • EBJM

    Well he could grab more than five rebounds.

  • BCrayZ

    @EBJM – What about his 3 blocks plus inside scoring & D?

    Will you ever be satisfied with winning games or would you rather we lose?

    Suns fans like you don’t deserve a team like this. Jeff will continue to strive for improvements in each players game. Frye will be an all star before his career is over. Mark my words. Know that the Suns are 8.5 points better than the other team when Chinga is on the foor but 4.5 points worse when he sits? That is a net difference of 13 points per game. When he is teamed with Barbosa, he will be able to give the team even more. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • EBJM

    BCrayZ I was only answering your question, well non-question. You said not to ask you Frye could improve on this performance.

    Sure, Frye had a great game sans rebounding. But he is like all jump-shooters, his shot comes and it goes. I’d rather he started driving to the rim more like he did last night.

    Personally it just drives me crazy that a guy 6′-11″ can only grab five boards per game.

  • BCrayZ


  • Voqar

    I’m really liking Ish leading the 2nd unit. He does a nice job of keeping up the pace, distributing, and playing defense too.

    Green seems tentative on 3′s lately which I’m not sure I like, but I guess it’s better than jacking up a ton of misses. I do like the fact that he’s nailing mid range shots and attempting to get to the rim a bit more – he needs that diversity and definitely needs to get more comfortable going to the rim.

    LB is LB – often out of control – sometimes spectacular. He’s playing pretty well overall and should only get better as he gets back into the swing of things. He doesn’t seem to have lost anything from being injured. His 3 point shooting should come back too at some point – one would hope. I would imagine the team will keep him around with the way he’s been playing.

    Frye cracks me up – he makes some of the most boneheaded fouls and complains (in his non demonstrative way) about 19/20 calls against him.

    Nice overall game and nice to see our bench close out the game vs their starters.

  • BCrayZ

    Suns, as a team, have been greatly improving their rebounding.

    Heat have won back-to-back championships, despite (or perhaps because of) their rebounding being weak.

    Jeff knows what he is doing. Frye is a very coach-able player for a veteran & does what he is told. When Jeff asked him to camp out on the 3-point line, that is what he did. Jeff now realizes that some of those open trey looks are disappearing & has asked Frye to drive which is why he did that last night, even though he was hot (5 out of 7) from 3-point land. Most of his shot attempts & makes (7 out of 9) came from inside. Look for more of the same. Frye will open your eyes. Will be even better with the ball handling presence of our Brazilian Blur. Suns have now regained the 7th seed (with the tie breaker in hand) from the Mavs. With Barbosa starting with Gogi & Frye, Suns will regain their edge. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • Dave:f32

    @BCrayZ -

    You know ur one of my fave posters, i am a fan of ur fandome.
    But homie you gots ta chillax!

    Demanding fanatics are what we all should be because it furthers our team’s cause the most. To settle for mediocrity is like permanently gouging the eyes, because the motivation to improve comes painfully slow!

    EBJM voices the same concerns i have with a 6’11″ Power Forward, who used to play Center in college (for Lute) and beginning his pro career. He has to play like a big man and he plays more like a glorified SG. We have enough guards on this team. We need more POWER to roll FORWARD towards a championship!

    That means Frye needs to stop faking the funk and take a postmove to a nasty dunk! He needs to rebound!!!

  • BCrayZ

    Dave -

    Very excited about last night’s important game. Suns have now gone past the Mavs for the 7th seed (with the tie breaker in hand) in the competitive West.

    Most of all, I’m excited to see the Blur back home. I know what he is able to give to this team. Will be excited to see him play with Gogi & Frye in our next game vs. the NBA best Pacers, as LB goes against his former team. As for Frye? Did you not see his drive & dunk in last night’s game? He wasn’t in condition to do that in the beginning of the year. Look for more of that now that his game legs are back. Mike Prada has a very good hoop mind. Look at this link, as he counts Gogi & Chinga (Frye) among the best & most valuable in the game.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • Emanuel

    Alex Len, boys…….this kid will be something in this league, totally agree with you EBJM, this kid is starting to ball, he can really cause a lot of problems to other teams with his length and he really can run the floor……Go Suns………

  • Dave:f32

    @BCrayZ -

    I warched Channing play in h.s. and college and been following. His play for years. Way before he became a Sun. He showed flashes of brilliance and beast down low in the post. I know he can be a dominant bigman, esp. now in a down league. The comp doesnt compare now to 10 or 20 years ago in relation to big men, and the type of fouls and bodywork that was permitted.

  • Dave:f32

    Paul Coro reports LB on for rest of season if not signed for 2 or 3 yr deal! Yeah!!!

  • BCrayZ

    Dave -

    Thank you very much.

    Coro says what I wanted to hear.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!