Nuggets Beat Suns to Grab Eighth Again

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Denver beat a team that dressed only eight players and was missing one of its stars, yet it is still something to be proud of. The Nuggets defeated the unfortunate Phoenix Suns 111-96last night to squeeze into the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. All three teams have exactly identical records but Denver owns tiebreakers against both rivals Utah and Portland. In last night's game, Carmelo Anthony exploded for 36 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way.

The Suns did get the otherwise blowout game to compress to within a six point lead to end the third quarter, but starters Leandro Barbosa and Antonio McDyess both fouled out, and Phoenix was not able to get it any closer. Andre Miller of the Nuggets also fouled out but Denver played ten bodies last night while Phoenix played only eight.

Newspaper reports have McDyess considering heading back to Denver this summer as a free agent and Marcus Camby heading to Phoenix if Denver doesn't work out. That swap would be a bad one for the Nuggets as they would replace an admittedly fragile center with an obviously broken one. McDyess fouled out in just 24 minutes of play after collecting just three rebounds, all on the defensive end, and scoring just nine points. He also had three steals and three turnovers. Meanwhile, Camby scored only eight points but got three steals and three blocked shots with only one turnover, and five personal fouls. In addition, he got 11 rebounds, of which four were on the offensive end.

Camby is six months younger, two inches taller, much more athletic, and surprisingly reliable this season. He would be an unfortunate loss to free agency.

The Nuggets visit the Rockets in Houston on Friday to complete their two game road trip and rematch against the team they beat at home last Friday. A win in Houston would bring the Nuggets to within one game of the seventh spot in the playoffs. A loss, depending on the fortunes of Utah and Portland, could push them anywhere from the eighth to the tenth spot. The game starts at 6:30pm MT tomorrow and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net and NBA League Pass.

Denver swept the season-series with Phoenix for the first time ever.

The average margin of victory this season by the Nuggets over the Suns was 15.8 points.

Carmelo Anthony has scored 20 or more in 14 of the last 15 and 30 of the last 34.

The Nuggets shot 8-of-15 from the arc.

Voshon Lenard
(bruised ribs) missed four games but returned last night, going 4-for-6 from three point range.Mark Pope(knee) andJeff Trepagnier(ankle) are on the injured list.


Chris Tomasson ofThe Rocky Mountain News writes: His injury-depleted team about to dress the NBA minimum of eight players, Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni joked before Wednesday night's game that he'd have to put some "blow-up dummies" on the bench if bodies kept dropping. For a while, it looked as if the dummies would have done a better job than the Phoenix players.

Chris Tomasson ofThe Rocky Mountain News writes: Antonio McDyess left Phoenix for the Nuggets after the 1997-98 season. Could it happen again? McDyess said Wednesday his preference is to remain with the Suns, and coach Mike D'Antoni said he wants him back. If Phoenix doesn't work out, though, McDyess said he would consider returning to Denver... Nuggets center Marcus Camby, likely to opt out of his contract this summer and become a free agent, says he will consider the Suns if Denver doesn't work out.That's good news to forward Shawn Marion, one of several Phoenix players who encouraged Camby during a Jan. 21 game to come to Phoenix. "He'd be a plus for us," Marion said. "He's a nice player. I've always liked Marcus."

Chris Tomasson ofThe Rocky Mountain News writes: There's at least one drawback to winning. Fans found that out Wednesday. For the first time in four years, the Nuggets raised ticket prices.They will jump next season from an average of $37.31 to $43.27, an increase of 16 percent... Andrews stressed that the team's average ticket price will remain near the bottom of the league and that about a third of the seats at the Pepsi Center will remain at $17 or less. The team also is offering season- ticket holders a 10 percent discount for next season. And each full-priced season-ticket account that renews by April 28 will have the opportunity to purchase two tickets to each major event at the NBA All-Star Game next year at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets raised ticket prices in all but one category, with the cheapest seats remaining $10. In one category, prices rose 25 percent, a jump from $20 to $25. Other increases were $15 to $17, $25 to $30, $34 to $40, $42 to $50, $63 to $75 and $78 to $92. 

Sam Adams ofThe Rocky Mountain News writes: Some still might find it hard to believe the Denver Nuggets are in position to finish .500 or better this season. But let's take it one step further. Who, back in October, would've believed the Nuggets could win more regular-season games than the Colorado Avalanche?Both teams play 82-game regular-season schedules. The Avalanche won 40 games; the Nuggets went into their game at Phoenix on Wednesday with 40 wins. If the Nuggets can win at least 43 games, it will be the most wins for the team since the 1989-90 season - when it finished 43-39 with a roster that included Alex English, Bill Hanzlik, Fat Lever (in their final seasons with the Nuggets), Jerome Lane and Joe Barry Carroll.

Adam Thompson ofThe Denver Postwrites: The notion of the Nuggets finishing the season with at least as many wins as losses seemed certifiable to 99.9 percent, if not more, of the basketball world last fall.But it's a fact as of Wednesday night, thanks to a 111-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns at America West Arena. Denver's 41st win guaranteed at least a .500 season. It came gift-wrapped from a Suns team missing a third of its active roster. But the Nuggets (41-37) aren't about to refuse it, considering the gridlock at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race. With Portland's 87-81 win over Golden State creates a three-way tie for the eighth and final spot in the standings. Denver would win a three-way tiebreaker. Houston sits just two games ahead of all three after beating the Los Angeles Clippers 102-79. The Nuggets face the Rockets in Houston on Friday.