Phoenix Suns 112, Denver Nuggets 107 -- Sweep of gold

Gerald Green carried the Suns offense with a trio of thunderous dunks, and Markieff Morris made the go-ahead put-back. But Phoenix needed everything to go its way after blowing a 14-point first-half lead Tuesday night in Denver, and P.J. Tucker sure as heck helped edge the 50-50 balls in his team’s favor.

The Suns needed overtime to drop the Denver Nuggets 112-107 at the Pepsi Center, and they did so with the pressure on them to begin the post-All-Star schedule with an needed victory.

This was a Denver team limping to the break, playing for pride after losing three prior meetings with Phoenix this year. And it was a must-win for the Suns, especially considering Nuggets guard Ty Lawson and backups Nate Robinson and Andre Miller weren’t available, for differing reasons.

Green scored a career-high 36 points, and Goran Dragic added 21 points and 14 assists.

Yet, it was Tucker knocking the ball off the glass hard on the Suns’ final possession in regulation, then finding Dragic for a fastbreak dunk in overtime that gave Phoenix a 105-103 lead it would hold.

With a minute to play in the fourth quarter, Dragic’s 13th dime of the game came on the third shot attempt of a possession. He found Channing Frye drifting atop the three-point stripe off an offensive rebound, and the swish brought the trailing Suns within 99-97 as 36 seconds remained on the game clock.

Phoenix earned a stop and the ball back with 18 second left. A few off-ball screens got Frye a wide open two-pointer over Randy Foye that would have tied the game, but the rebound was batted off the backboard by Tucker and put back in by Markieff Morris for a tie.

Tucker finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds — but he wouldn’t gain credit for that most important swat of the ball, nor a few others.

It wasn’t always such a close one.

Midway through the first quarter, the Suns had built a 21-7 lead thanks to nine points from Dragic and his two assists for dunks that included a jaw-dropping alley-oop find to Green. But the ability for Hornacek to go early to the bench wasn’t rewarded by the second unit.

Leandro Barbosa sunk in and left the silky-shooting Evan Fournier for a three-pointer before Ish Smith lost the handle to allow Kenneth Faried score on a breakaway dunk.

Suddenly, it was a game.

It was a back-and-forth affair from then on, and Phoenix led just 52-51 at halftime. Dragic controlled the third, sucking in the Denver defense for wide-open three-pointers. At the same time, the Nuggets held the Suns close with their paint scoring that beat up on the small Phoenix front line. Throughout the first 36 minutes, the Nuggets could never completely snag the momentum away from the Suns until they had a one-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Two quick buckets to begin the final quarter, and the Suns trailed 81-76 with 10:26 to play. Gerald Green continued pouring in threes to finish with a 11-for-22 shooting night that included six threes and an 8-of-8 foul shooting evening.

As a team, Phoenix shot just 37.6 from the floor but nailed 37.9 percent of its three-point attempts. Hornacek’s squad lost the points in the paint battle 58-32, yet it held Denver to 38.4 percent shooting and a miserable 5-for-28 from three-point range.

It wasn’t pretty, but it sure was needed to keep up if the playoffs are a realistic gaol.

Now to review Jeff Sanders’ key points in his game preview.

Can the Suns slow down Ty Lawson?

Lawson still wasn’t able to return remains out of action with a broken rib, but he did make a dent on Tuesday with the release of his PETA campaign dubbed “Ink, Not Mink.” Anyhow, the Suns held emergency point guard Randy Foye to zero first-half points.

Foye got going to finish with eight points by the end of the game, but it was Evan Fournier to got going off the bench. The Suns repeatedly treated him as a driver rather than a shooter, and he made them pay, going 8-of-19 to score 25 points.

Avoid the slow start

Phoenix certainly didn’t get off to a slow start — at least, the starters didn’t. The bench unit didn’t take long to lose the lead, and as the game wore on, foul trouble against an aggressive rebounding Denver squad wore on the Suns.

Miles Plumlee fouled out after collecting eight boards, and Markieff Morris did the same after recording a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Tucker flop meter

The red flag from the NBA given to Tucker was a note that he’s put himself amongst the Ginobilis and James Hardens of the world, which is a compliment to his peskiness and savvy but also a sign he’s been quite annoying to his opponents. Tucker was up to his usual tricks, but nothing appeared blatant. And who’s to say Adam Silver will be after him this early in his new gig as commissioner?

  • Anonymous

    Miles plumlee 2 points.

  • Woodrow

    Remember that one time Channing Frye couldn’t post-up whatever an Evan Fornier is?

  • foreveris2long

    Woodrow that was pathetic low post move by Frye against Fornier. Anonymous I have no idea why Miles is totally clueless offensively these days. Anyway great win.

  • Woodrow

    I was definitely proud of the way they gutted it out through the altitude, terrible….terrible officiating, and the Manimal doing his predator thing. Games we gotta win.
    This is the kind of game we would win by twenty with Bledsoe back.

  • hawki

    Just another ho-hum win for the Suns.

  • EBJM

    The Suns best players once again carried Phoenix to victory; Dragic, Green, Tucker and Markieff.

    If the Suns only had a center two play with them!

  • Luka

    Frye has been trolling long enough. McDonough will send him or Morris bros packing very soon.

  • Eric

    That was the worst officiated SUNS game I have seen all year and I have seen a few. The Bulls game at PHX and at Portland come to mind. But, it’s time to trade Plumblee for a Center I don’t care if he only scores 8 a game as long as he can play defense and rebound. Same w Frye he has got to go the 3 was nice but that was the most pathetic low post defense by 2 players all yr

  • Eric

    Thaddeus Young or Zack Randolph go get em Ryan. I would have liked Al Horford if he wasn’t injured. BTW Ejim from ISU is unstoppable in NCAA I think he had 35 and 20 the last 2 games. I was hoping for him in the draft back in early November

  • sunsn7

    On a sidenote, it’s interesting to see the players interact with Hornacek. You can tell the guys like and respect him. As well as he’s doing, he’s only going to get better as a coach.

    Trust him to bring guys like Goodwin and Len along and mold them into cornerstone pieces for this franchise.

    The Phoenix Suns will be a playoff contender next year and are going to be downright scary by the 2015-16 season.

    I trust this F.O. not to blow it by being “prisoners of the moment” and taking on a RETREAD.


  • ellensburgbballfan

    Barbosa was -21 tonight in 18 minutes

    2 points 2 boards an assist and steal

    makes Lens line of 0 points 3 boards 2 blocks in 9 minutes look fabulous

    Markeiff Morris had a career high 42 minutes

    Len gets better and better

    i love the 8 boards in 22 minutes from Plumlee, but he has little offensive game right now, just 2 points

    btw i am hoping the Suns select Kyle Anderson with one of their picks, the guy can ball

  • Dominik

    IMO the team has already set itself up pretty good for the future. Hornacek established a fine culture and the players are giving all they’ve got. I honestly don’t care a lot if this Suns team clinches a playoff spot or not. Either way the franchise has a lot of upside.

    In the end the Suns might end up with two late lottery picks in a deep draft, seems like a nice position to be in if you’re thinking about trading for a higher pick. Or we might see a team battling for 7th/8th seat in the West and giving the Spurs or the Thunder a hard time moving on to the next round, still there’d be a late lottery pick, plus the Suns’ own and Indy’s.
    The team’s prestige will keep growing, which will make PHX a nice destination for free agents.
    This season is a win no matter how it’s going be be closed out.

    Miles seems to have hit his (delayed) rookie wall, maybe Coach can find a game to rest him completly and play Len, Frye and Keef at C.

    A high-profile German basketball magazine just named Keef as 6th Man of the year at the season’s halfway point. Bledsoe is being metioned as runner up for MIP, as well as McD and Hornacek.
    Interestin how focus shifts if a team suddenly plays successful and fun basketball (until last month the same magazine hasn’t issued a single article which covered the Suns or one of their players exclusivly).

  • john

    Markieff as 6th Man will get more and more likely with efforts like last night. The thing that would hold me back from giving it to Kieff is that his production has waxed and waned dramatically from game to game. If he could be counted on for 15/9 with 50% shooting, he’d probably get my vote for being the anchor of this solid bench unit. The problem is, you can’t count on that with him.

    How ’bout Gerald Green? I never thought I would have said this about him before the season began, but he might be the biggest reason the Suns are winning outside of Dragic and Hornacek. There are a handful of games now this year that the Suns would not have won without some amazing heroics from Green. $3.5M well spent, Ryan.

  • SarverHater22

    dang , totally forgot about Lamar Odom being available, he could have been the Suns cheap answer at PF for the remainder of the season…Odom’s off to Spain now.

  • Foreveris2long

    Gerald Green has come from no where to be one of the most pleasant surprises this team has seen in awhile. Bledsoe was thought to be a hidden gem and was somewhat sponsored by Lebron so the Suns were hopefully he would prove to be an explosive point guard. Suns had a clue with Bledsoe. However I doubt anyone (maybe McD) thought Gerald Green could get you 20 or 30 points on any given night. When you also consider he is clutch at the charity stripe and a fairly decent defender, acquiring him and a 1st round pick (along with Plumlee) was an exceptional summer acquisition.

    On the trade front, I wonder if the Lakers will simply accept the expiring contract we might offer for Gasol. With Kobe still on the shelf for an indefinite period, they should just save money by ridding themselves of Gasol’s contract and take the insurance deal associated with Okafur’s contract. I still would not give the Lakers a 1st round pick for Gasol.

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    Yeah Jon i agree with you there, we really need his scoring and energy

    if Green hadnt come in and done so spectacularly well for Bledsoe, we would not have a shot at making the playoffs

    while i am a big picture, 3 years from now kind of fan, it is awesome to see players we got from Indiana for nothing come in and really do well

    i dont know how Hornacek cant be Coach of the Year and McMiracle GM of the year

    it is also really great to see players give 110%

    that shows you how bad a job Lindsey Hunter and Lance Blanks were doing last season

    and that team had alot more veterans on it

  • DZ

    If the Suns can get Gasol for just Okafor’s expiring contract, I’m all for it. Plumlee is wearing down and Gasol could take some of the weight from his sholders while giving the Suns a little more of an inside scoring threat. Yeah, I don’t see Gasol as part of the Suns future but neither is Okafor.

    I like Deng but I’m not sure how adding him would affect the rotations and/or team chemistry. Everything I know about him is positive but just changing the rotation could change the chemistry and I’m not sure taking that chance is worth it for a player that could likely be a half season rental.

    Yeah, the same could be said for adding Gasol but I think that chemistry issues would be less likely as I’m sure Plumlee is already not happy with his level of production and Len isn’t ready to step up and carry some of that load. Plus, Gasol wouldn’t have to play extended minutes with Plumlee, Len and even Frye available to step in which should help in keeping him healthy for the rest of the season.

    But, as I said, I’d only be in for the trade for Gasol if the Lakers are willing to accept a one for one trade without a draft pick being included.

  • Brenton

    Deng is a good player, but Im not sure he fits onto the roster. Suns really need a big who can play some defense and rebound the ball. Denver went crazy inside against the Suns. Frye was pathetic, as usual, but Plumlee and Len were equally bad. Maybe we can trade Frye and Len to Houston for Asik? Frye and DHo would make a good combo, and Asik would certainly help the Suns alot. He is expensive, but its not like we are gearing up for a big free agent push this summer. Plus, his expiring contract could be useful in a trade, if one emerged, for a guy like Kevin Love.

    Unlikely, but we can dream…

    P.S. Len is a horrible player and a total bust.

  • Sonic

    @Brenton Roy Hibbert was also a “horrible player” in his first… and second year. You need a lot of time with Centers.
    But the fact is, we need upgrade our C position. Asik would be good. How about Asik for Plumlee and indy pick or for Goodwin and 1st indy pick.