Denver (40-37) at Phoenix (26-51)

Cloudy Currently: Phoenix, AZ
Temp: 85° F
  • Game info: 10:00 pm EDT Wed Apr 7, 2004
  • TV: FSRM, FSAZ
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Denver Nuggets are in need of a strong finish if they hope to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

The Nuggets, who are a half-game behind Utah for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, try for their third straight victory when they visit the Phoenix Suns.

Denver has not appeared in the postseason since the 1994-95 season and faces a difficult schedule down the stretch.

After Wednesday’s game, Denver’s final four contests are against teams with winning records: Houston, Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio. Utah also has a tough schedule ahead, facing Dallas, the Rockets and Minnesota before closing the season against the Suns on April 14.

Denver, 27-12 at home, continued its dominance at the Pepsi Center with a fifth straight home victory, 110-100 over the Rockets on Friday.

Carmelo Anthony followed a career-high 41-point performance in a win over Seattle last Tuesday by shooting 5-for-17 for 20 points against the Rockets.

“I had one of those nights, a bad night of shooting,” Anthony said. “Fortunately, we defended them and held them to one shot in the second half and didn’t let Yao go off.”

The Nuggets have averaged 107.8 points during the home win streak but have lost five straight road games. Denver, averaging 97.2 points in 2003-04, has scored just 84.2 per game during the road skid.

The Nuggets haven’t won three straight since early February and seek their first season-series sweep of Phoenix, which holds a 69-51 edge in the overall series.

The Suns try to bounce back after an 0-2 trip through Memphis and Dallas this past weekend. They are beginning a tough four-game homestand, which also features matchups against Sacramento and the Grizzlies.

Phoenix, eliminated from playoff contention several weeks ago, lost 109-99 to the Grizzlies on Friday before suffering a 124-103 rout at the hands of the Mavericks on Saturday.

Amare Stoudemire averaged 25.5 and 11.5 rebounds on the trip, including a 31-point effort against Memphis, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Suns from falling to 1-3 over their last four.

Stoudemire had 20 points and 13 rebounds against the Mavs, Shawn Marion also scored 20 points, and Joe Johnson and Leandro Barbosa added 17 apiece as Phoenix fell to 10-30 on the road this season.

“For us to win on the road, we would have to play super, and I don’t think we played super,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said.

The Suns have won two straight at home after losing their previous five games at America West Arena.

STANDINGS (through April 5): Nuggets - 7th place, 13 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Suns - 7th place, 27 1/2 GB, Pacific Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Nuggets - F Anthony, F Nene, C Marcus Camby, G Jon Barry, G Andre Miller. Suns - F Marion, F Stoudemire, C Antonio McDyess, G Johnson, G Barbosa.

TEAM LEADERS: Nuggets - Anthony, 20.9 ppg; Camby, 9.9 rpg; Miller, 6.2 apg. Suns - Stoudemire, 20.1 ppg; Marion, 9.3 rpg; Johnson, 4.4 apg.

SEASON SERIES: Nuggets, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 21; Nuggets, 97-92. At Denver, Camby, despite battling the lingering effects of tonsillitis, dominated the game with a season-high 22 points, 18 rebounds and six blocked shots.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Nuggets - 13-25 on the road; Suns - 16-21 at home.

INJURIES: Nuggets - G Voshon Lenard (rib cage); F-C Mark Pope (knee); G Jeff Trepagnier (ankle); F Ryan Bowen (back); F Nikoloz Tskitishvili (ankle). Suns - C Jahidi White (knee); F Keon Clark (ankle); G Howard Eisley (abdomen); Jake Voskuhl (foot).

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