Suns 116, Nuggets 101

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DENVER (AP)—The Phoenix Suns are extremely difficult to beat when they are moving the ball well.

The Suns had 33 assists in a 116-101 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night in a matchup of division leaders.

“This team is great at distributing the basketball and Nash and Boris (Diaw) did a great job of finding people,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “When the ball moves like that and Raja and everybody gets involved, it makes it really easy and when we can hit 14, 3-pointers, we’ll hurt a lot of people.”

Phoenix shot 51 percent from the field and made 14 3-pointers, thanks in part to great ball movement.

“We moved the ball really well and we had wide open shots,” D’Antoni said. “But at the same time you still have to make them.”

Shawn Marion had 21 points and 12 rebounds and Raja Bell added 20 points to lead the Suns.

Steve Nash added 19 points and 12 assists for the Pacific Division-leading Suns, who have won six-of-seven games. Phoenix was 14-for-25 on 3-pointers and beat the Nuggets at their own game, outscoring Denver 36-30 on fastbreak points.

“A lot of it has to do with our unselfish play,” Marion said, who also had three assists. “Everybody was looking for each other and we were all making our passes.”

Carmelo Anthony, who was left off the Western Conference All-Star team had 29 points. The Northwest-leading Nuggets were 0-for-14 on 3-pointers and had their modest two-game winning streak snapped.

The Suns began wearing down the Nuggets in the third quarter, beating them down the floor for easy baskets. Kurt Thomas and Nash had layups off pinpoint passes to start the second half to make it a 67-49 game.

After Anthony’s baseline drive Thomas and Marion beat the Nuggets down the floor for layups to put Phoenix ahead 82-63.

“We fought through any fatigue,” Nash said. “Then, we knocked our shots down.”

The Nuggets made only two shots, both by Anthony while Diaw and Nash were hitting 3-pointers for the Suns, who closed the third quarter with a 12-4 run over the final 4 1/2 minutes. Phoenix led 94-69 at the end of the third quarter.

“They had us spread out all over the place all night,” Denver point guard Andre Miller said.

The Phoenix reserves did most of the damage in the fourth quarter, with Eddie House accounting for eight points and Pat Burke four. House’s 3-pointer with 3:20 left sealed the game after Anthony, Andre Miller and DerMar Johnson had seven points each in the quarter.

Bell had 14 points in the first half, including four 3-pointers, to help the Suns build as many as a 19-point lead. Bell’s fourth 3-pointer put the Suns up 58-39 with 2:52 left in the second quarter.

“It was there for the taking,” Bell said. “Once I hit my first 3-pointer, everything started clicking.”

Anthony, who had 11 points for the half, set up a dunk by Linas Kleiza to get the Nuggets as close as 61-49. A finger roll layup by Nash in the last five seconds helped the Suns, who were 10-for-14 on 3-pointers in the half, take a 63-49 lead into the break.

“Good teams don’t have to be motivated, they want to play,” Denver coach George Karl said. “We weren’t that team tonight.”

Notes

: The Suns had been idle since last Friday. … Phoenix and Denver played a triple overtime game the last time the teams met on Jan. 10. … Backup center Nene has begun light running. He has been out since the season opener with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. … Denver coach George Karl plans to spend the All-Star break to be in Boise watching his son play. … The Nuggets have been outrebounded in 11 straight games.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Phoenix
S. Nash S. Nash
8-14,  19 Pts
6 Rebs, 12 Assists
 Denver
C. Anthony C. Anthony
13-24,  29 Pts
4 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists