Nuggets secure No. 3 seed with rout of Suns

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets banked on their depth from the start of the season. Even at the end, they were getting something from everyone, and it earned them a high seed in the upcoming playoffs.
Wilson Chandler scored 21 points, Andre Iguodala had 20, and the Nuggets had seven players score in double figures in securing the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 118-98 win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
"That was the most important thing on our mind, especially now that we have a couple of players injured," Chandler said of the third seed.
Denver knows it will start the playoffs at home Saturday against either Golden State or Houston. Both teams played later Wednesday.
Whomever Denver plays it promises to be an offensive series. Houston is first in the league in scoring, the Nuggets are second and the Warriors seventh.
"Everybody says you can't run in the playoffs. I think you can run, but you've got to do it with your defense -- a lot more probably in the playoffs than in the regular season," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "You've got to make them miss shots, you've got to rebound the ball. You've got to finish off defensive plays and you've got to create some offense with some turnovers and some shot blocks."
The Nuggets finished the season with a 23-game home winning streak and were 38-3 overall at Pepsi Center, a franchise record. Their 57 regular-season wins are also a club record and the most for Karl since 1997-98 when he won 61 with Seattle.
"It's a great accomplishment to win that many games, especially with such a young team," center JaVale McGee said.
Anthony Randolph had 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Nuggets, who ended the year with a three-game winning streak.
Just as important, Denver found out its best player is fine for the playoffs. Ty Lawson had another solid game, scoring 14 points while showing the strained right heel and torn plantar fascia in the same foot is fine.
"I'm comfortable playing with my foot again, no pain," he said. "The last three games helped me get back into form and get back to the way I was playing before."
Luis Scola had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns.
Denver took the drama out of this one early, taking a 14-4 lead at the start and stretching it to 35-20 by the end of the first quarter. The lead grew to 26 at halftime and was as large as 29 in the second half before the reserves finished off the rout.
Eleven Nuggets logged at least 10 minutes.
"You could see they were trying to get it over with the sooner the better," Scola said. "They're a great team; I like the way they play."
The Nuggets are one of the hottest teams heading into the postseason. They won 40 of their last 50 games, and were 46-13 after Dec. 12, when a loss to Minnesota dropped them to 11-12.
That was the last time they were below .500, and it came in the midst of playing 17 of their first 23 games away from home.
Once the calendar flipped to 2013, Denver caught fire. A home-heavy schedule paid dividends with a 29-2 record at Pepsi Center from that point. The two losses came against non-playoff teams Minnesota and Washington.
Phoenix split its last four games after losing its previous 10. The Suns finished with 25 wins, their fewest since winning just 16 in their inaugural season of 1968-69.
"Nobody ever wants to end a season like that, but it's all about taking steps. Unless you go out and sign three max players then you're going to take steps," Phoenix coach Lindsey Hunter said. "You have to build somewhere and you have to start with young guys and you grab some free agents and you change. While we have our young guys we're going to work them and get better. We're competitive, and that's when you can start building something."
NOTES: Suns guard Goran Dragic did not play because of an ankle injury, and forward Jermaine O'Neal missed his fourth game in the last six with a bruised shin. ... Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried was out with a sprained ankle suffered in Sunday's win over Portland. Faried is hoping to be back for the first round of the playoffs. "He's been in here three hours a day doing his job," Karl said. "I don't think he'll practice but maybe he'll go through a shootaround." ... There was a moment of silence observed before the tip for the victims of the bombing at Monday's Boston Marathon. ... Before the game the Nuggets presented some of their season ticket holders with signed jerseys from the players. ... The Suns trailed by double digits in 58 of their 82 games this season.

What to Read Next