Suns rally from 21 down to defeat Nuggets

By Aaron J. Lopez,

Posted Dec. 21, 2013 00:04

The Denver Nuggets needed less than 23 minutes to do something no team had done to the Phoenix Suns this season.

It took the Suns roughly 25 minutes to do something no Denver opponent had done in 11 years.

Gerald Green hit six 3-pointers and Goran Dragic scored eight of Phoenix’s final 12 points as the Suns rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit to beat the Nuggets 103-99 Friday night at Pepsi Center.

It was the first time this season Phoenix trailed by at least 20 points and the first time Denver squandered a 21-point lead at home since Nov. 29, 2002.

“We were just a front running team,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “Everything was going well for us in the first half. We were all smiles and played as if the game was over and we didn’t have a second half to play and there were some things that led up to our demise.”

Among the culprits:

Turnovers. Denver committed 11 second-half miscues that led to 15 points for the Suns.

Defense. Green got loose for four 3-pointers in the third quarter, while Dragic attacked the rim with little resistance with the game in the balance in the final minutes.

Poor shooting. The Nuggets hit 24 of 46 shots (.552) in the first half but went 11-for-39 (.282) in the second half, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range.

Bench production. Led by Markieff Morris’ 25 points, the Phoenix enjoyed a 64-34 advantage in bench scoring. The Nuggets fell to 0-5 on the season when their reserves get outscored.

“They just came at us,” Denver forward Darrell Arthur said. “They’re that type of team. We had them down double figures at their place, too. They just play hard all game. You have to give them their kudos; they were down 21 points and just kept fighting.”

Arthur finished with 10 points off the bench. He scored on back-to-back possessions to give Denver a 97-96 lead with 2:50 to play, but Morris split two free-throws and Dragic scored four straight points to put Phoenix up four with 59.7 seconds left.

The Nuggets still had a chance to tie after Eric Bledsoe missed a free throw with 15.1 seconds left, but Randy Foye couldn’t connect on a straightaway 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds remaining.

“It didn’t have anything to do with that last shot,” Foye said. “We lost that game early on when we let them make that comeback. We were in control of the game all game and then we let Gerald Green and some of their guys off the bench get off.”

Instead of maintaining a big lead throughout the second half, the Nuggets were forced to expend more energy than they wanted to in advance of Saturday’s game against the Clippers in Los Angeles.

“We stopped doing the things that got us in the lead in the first place and then our team got a little tight,” Shaw said. “We couldn’t hit shots; we couldn’t finish around the rim; we dribbled or dropped the ball out of bounds; we threw the ball away. We just have to be smarter in those situations and we weren’t, so we got what we deserved.”

NOTES: After missing Thursday's practice due to the stomach flu, Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson played 34 minutes. He finished with 13 points and seven assists but went 3-for-11 from the field . . . Denver forward/centerJ.J. Hickson had 13 points and 14 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season . . . Nuggets swingman Jordan Hamilton served his one-game suspension for throwing punch during Denver's game against Oklahoma City on Tuesday.


Gerald Green

Points 19 6-12 FG, 6-12 3FG, 1-2 FT
Rebounds 8, 0 OFF 8 DEF
Assists 2
Steals 0
Blocks 1


Points Markieff Morris 25
Rebounds J.J. Hickson 14
Assists Ty Lawson 7
Steals Markieff Morris 3
Blocks Markieff Morris 3


Nuggets guard Randy Foye on missing potential tying 3-pointer in final seconds

"It didn’t have anything to do with that last shot. We lost that game early on when we let them make that comeback."


Fourth-quarter push completes Phoenix rally from 21-point deficit

Trailing 88-81, the Suns went on a 13-2 run capped by Gerald Green's sixth 3-pointer of the game to take the lead for the first time since scoring the game's first basket.


Postgame Quotes

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw

On tonight’s game:

“Not very happy and I’ll take the hit for tonight’s game for allowing things that are going on in practice to carry over into the game. Tonight we were just a front running team. Everything that was going well for us in the first half, we were all smiles and played as if the game was over and we didn’t have a second half to play and there were some things that led up to our demise. The little small things that everything turns on a trifle and the momentum switched into their favor and you go from having a 60 to 39 lead to only being up by 14 at half time and they just slowly whittled us down.”

On not handling the timeouts correctly:
“We had to burn a timeout in a couple of situations. I tried to stop the bleeding as I felt this whole thing coming on. Nate had to burn a timeout because he got pinned on the sideline and we ran out of timeouts. It’s my fault; I mismanaged the game and just have to address some little habits that we’re going to have to change in practice so we can carry over good habits to the game instead of bad habits.”

On the Nuggets not executing:
“They didn’t give up. They kept coming which the fourth quarter (tonight) was almost a replay of the fourth quarter in Phoenix when we played them there. You give up 31 points in the fourth quarter and you only score 17 yourself, you’re going to have a good chance to lose the game, so that’s what happened to us. The reason why we gave up 31 points is that we stopped doing the things that got us in the lead in the first place and then our team got a little tight. We couldn’t hit shots, we couldn’t finish around the rim, we had openings, we dribbled or dropped the ball out of bounds, we threw the ball away… There are things where we just have to be smarter in that situations and we weren’t and we got what we deserved.”

On the toughest loss:
“Yes, it’s tough to swallow. A team that had identical records because they beat us in their first head to head meeting and it was a chance to even up the season series to go up a game on them on the standings in the Western Conference and we’re on our home floor, we have a tough game coming up tomorrow night against another team that’s ahead of us in the standings and we shot ourselves in the foot.”

Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur

On what the difference was from the first half to the second half:
“They just came at us. They’re that type of team. We had them down 16 at their place too. They just play hard all game, you have to give them their kudos, they were down 21 points and just kept fighting.”

On if the Phoenix comeback was keyed by their adjustments or Denver relaxing with a big lead:

“They went small, but I thought we still should have won this game—no question. They fought, you have to give them their props for that—Gerald Green caught fire, he made six three’s or something like that. All of their guys were shooting pretty well, they kept attacking us, they got to the free throw line and they played their asses off.”

On how they recover and don’t let tonight’s loss linger:
“It’s tough; we’ll get it together though. It starts in practice, we have to go back to the drawing board—get our defense back tight, get our offense together and I think we’re still going to be good. You have these type of loses in the season, it’s a long season and I’m looking forward to the future.”

Nuggets guard Randy Foye

On how his three felt late in the game that had a chance to tie the game:
“It felt pretty good, but it didn’t have anything to do with that last shot—we lost that game early on in the game when we let them make that comeback. We were in control of the game all game, and then we let Gerald Green and some of their guys off the bench get off and we should have been resting our starters in the fourth quarter. Their guys came in and really just started dictating the pace of the game.”

On what Phoenix did to make their comeback:
“They started making shots. Gerald Green started hitting shots. We didn’t get to him, I think he was 6-of-12 from three, he had five in the third—you aren’t going to win like that.”

On if having a game tomorrow night makes the loss tonight easier to move past:
“It’s a great thing, but you look and Dallas lost and it’s still early but you can’t let games slip like this.”

Suns coach Jeff Hornacek

On tonight’s performance:

“I was satisfied that the guys didn’t give up. I think we were down by 21 and the guys kept chipping away. We had a nice little run there at the half to get it down to 14. We told them at half that 14 is nothing in this game, so keep playing. Obviously our bench guys [helped with the win], Gerald [Green] Markieff [Morris] and Marcus [Morris]. We got a big lift from Ish [Smith] in there. A lot of credit to our bench guys, they came in there and continued to play and pulled out the win.”

On if his bench was the difference tonight:
“Gerald [Green] with the threes, the lead breaks down quickly. We got it to six and all of a sudden a couple minutes go by and we got it to five and then four and then all of a sudden the guys felt like we could win this game. We tried to go inside to Markieff [Morris], and he did a great job at being aggressive and taking it in there. He also hit a big three in the corner.”

On the difference between the first and second half:
“First half we just weren’t alert. We were slow to run down the court. I don’t know if it was the altitude that got us in the first minutes and we just weren’t able to get that second wind, but we were just not there in the first half. Second half we played like we normally play.”

Phoenix guard Gerald Green

On coming back from 21-point deficit:

“It doesn’t matter where you’re at. When you’re down 21 points, that’s a tough position to come back and win the game. Like I said, I have to give coach the credit. He never panicked. He never yelled at us. He just kept with it. He kept telling us to stick to the plan and it’s going to work. I started knocking down a couple shots. Ish [Smith] played fantastic pushing the pace. Both of the twins played an outstanding game. That just goes to show you what kind of team we have.”

On chemistry with Goran Dragic:
“Me and Goran [Dragic] have a little chemistry ever since [Eric Bledsoe] was hurt for a little while. Every time I go on the court he’s always looking for me spotting up. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been shooting it poorly but tonight I was feeling it. The team did a great job of finding me in transition. The easiest part is knocking them down.”

On if the Nuggets panicked down the stretch:
“I don’t think it was panic. We sensed it enough that we can win this game. We always felt that. We felt that we can win this game. Even when we were down 21, we still felt like we could win the game. There was never one point where we thought we were going to lose. We knew if we kept playing the way we were playing that we were going to lose. We knew something had to change. We didn’t know what but we knew something was going to have to change in this game for us to win, and it did.”

Suns forward Markieff Morris

On what changed in the second half:

“In the second half we just tried to lock them down and make them play our game and pressure them a little more. Ty Lawson was doing a great job on the pick and rolls. We did a great job in the second half.”

On Ish Smith coming up big down the stretch:
“Ish [Smith] has been quiet all year … He took a back seat. In practice he has played real well. The guy just stayed ready and when he gets a chance he just plays. There’s nothing we can do but give him credit.”



• Wilson Chandler led the Nuggets in scoring with 15 points, marking the fourth time in the last five games that he has led or tied for the lead in scoring. It also is the fewest points by a leading Nuggets scorer since Denver had three players with 12 points at Memphis on 12/29/12 in an 82-71 loss.

• J.J. Hickson registered his third straight double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. It was his ninth double-double of the year and fourth in his last six games.

• Darrell Arthur scored 10 points, leading all Nuggets reserves in scoring. That marked his fourth game scoring in double figures, and the second time this season that he was the leading bench scorer for Denver.

• Ty Lawson recorded 13 points and seven assists tonight, giving him 15 games this season with at least 10 points and seven assists.

• Markieff Morris led all scorers with 25 points to go with six rebounds and three steals. His output was the third time in his career he has scored at least 25 points, with his career high (28 points) coming in the first meeting against Denver this season. Prior to this year, in his last five meetings against Denver he had scored a total of just 27 points.

• Gerald Green tied a career high with six three pointers made, with four of those coming in the third quarter. He finished with 19 points and tied his season high with eight rebounds.


• The Nuggets are now 0-2 against Phoenix this season. The Suns’ victory is just the fifth road win for either team in the overall series since 2006-07.

• The Nuggets scored 99 points in the loss, the sixth time in the last eight games that they have scored under 100 points.

• Denver led by as many as 21 tonight, their largest blown lead at home since 11/29/02 vs. Golden State, when the Nuggets also led by 21 and lost.

• The Nuggets led by 14 at half, tied for the seventh largest blown lead from halftime in team history and the first time blowing a 14+ point lead at half since 11/29/08 vs. Minnesota.

• The last time the Nuggets lost after leading by 10+ after three quarters was 11/6/07 at NYK (led 92-82 after three, lost 119-112).

• Denver held a first quarter lead for the first time in 10 games tonight, and took a lead into halftime for the first time since 12/3/13 at Brooklyn.

• The Suns improve to 7-1 this season when playing on Friday and 11-2 when playing on one day of rest.

• All five Denver starters scored in double digits for just the second time this season.

• Denver’s bench was outscored 64-34, just the fifth time this year they have been outscored by their opponent’s reserves (second straight game being outscored).