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Suns rally to defeat Nuggets

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX -- Coach Jeff Hornacek said his young Phoenix Suns team reminds him a lot of his golf game so far this season.

"One day you can drive and putt but you can't chip," Hornacek said. "One day we'll have one of those games where we put it all together."

Friday wasn't that day. But after going from 18 points ahead to 11 down during a miserable third quarter, the Suns still managed to regroup in the fourth quarter to close out their round with a flourish.

Forward Markeiff Morris scored a career-high 28 points and added 10 rebounds and guard Eric Bledsoe had nine of his 17 points down the stretch as the Suns rallied for their third straight win at home to open the season, a 114-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Guard Ty Lawson exploded for 21 of his 29 points in the third quarter when the Nuggets outscored the Suns 40-20 and used a 36-7 run to turn the game upside-down. But the Suns, who scored a season-high 64 points in the first half, finished with a 30-point fourth quarter to win for the fourth time in their first six games.

"It was crazy," said Suns center Miles Plumlee, who had a double-double of his own with 18 points and 11 rebounds. "We're a young team and we're still learning when we're up that much we need to step on their necks and not let them come back. But it was great that our will to win brought us back."

That and a whole lot of Markeiff Morris.

After tying his career high with 23 points and 12 rebounds in Wednesday's loss at San Antonio, Morris has posted double-doubles in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. He made 10 of 13 shots Friday and is 21 of 26 in the last two games, showing more of an inclination to work inside and use his quickness to attack the basket.

Add in 11 points and eight rebounds for forward Marcus Morris, and the brothers combined for 39 points and 18 rebounds against the Nuggets.

"I had a good game, that's about all I can say about it," Markeiff Morris said. "Coach does a great job of calling plays to get me involved. We fought hard and stayed in there. We knew they were on a back-to-back and we had to pick it up a notch. They kind of ran out of gas."

Forward Jordan Hamilton had 19 points and forward Anthony Randolph added 14 points for the Nuggets, who have lost four of five games to start the season.

"I told our team we lost that game in the first half," Denver coach Brian Shaw said. "Defensively, we allowed too many fast-break points (37) and which was a concern of ours. The guys that made the comeback made a valiant effort, but I'm at a loss of words for the lack of energy from some of our rotation guys."

The Nuggets trailed 64-47 at the half, but Lawson outscored the Suns 21-20 by himself as Denver turned a double-digit deficit into a double-digit lead.

Lawson followed an 18-footer with a 3-pointer to start the comeback. His 3-point play with 4:30 left gave Denver the lead at 74-72 and his 14-footer capped a 15-0 Nuggets run to make it 78-72.

The Denver lead reached 11 at 87-76 before the Suns counterpunched with eight straight points to end the quarter. Guard Ish Smith had a three-point play before feeding Markieff Morris for a layup with 1.5 seconds left and the Suns were back in the game at 87-84 after three quarters.

And the final quarter was all Phoenix.

"The fourth quarter killed us again," said Lawson, who hit seven of nine shots in the third quarter and all six free throws. "When we went up by (11), I should have managed the game better. In the fourth quarter, we just laid an egg like we've done most of the games we've lost."

NOTES: Suns G Goran Dragic missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle after giving it a try in warm-ups. "We told him to make sure it is 100 percent," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. "If you feel something, let's play it on the safe side and try it the next game." ... The Nuggets had won eight of the last nine meetings with the Suns, including three of the last four at US Airways Center. Before that, Denver had lost 12 straight in Phoenix. ... When Markieff Morris came off the bench and hit 11 of 13 shots from the field in Wednesday's loss to San Antonio, he was the first Suns reserve to shoot a percentage that high with at least 13 attempts since current Suns TV analyst Eddie Johnson was 11 of 13 against Seattle on April 6, 1989. ... Brian Shaw on Bledsoe. "He's kind of played in the shadow of guards that were in front of him. ... I remember Kevin Johnson coming into the league playing behind Mark Price (in Cleveland) and the same thing with Steve Nash playing behind Jason Kidd (in Phoenix). Then they were traded to a different team and got a chance to spread their wings."
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