Suns News

Suns-Nuggets Game Preview: 4/13/2010

Richardson and Co. are playing for playoff positioning tonight.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Matt Beardmore
Posted: April 13, 2010

With neither team unable to grab the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns still have plenty of maneuvering to do before they'll know where their respective first-round playoff series begin.

Needing a victory to clinch their second straight Northwest Division title and tie a franchise high in wins, the Nuggets finish their regular season Tuesday night at US Airways Center, where they have lost 10 straight.

Denver (53-28) moved one-half game ahead of idle Phoenix (52-28) and Utah for the No. 3 seed Monday with a 123-101 win over visiting Memphis. The Nuggets, though, were eliminated from contention for the second spot when Dallas won 117-94 at the Clippers. Only the Jazz can catch the Mavericks, but Utah needs to win its final two games and Dallas must lose at home to San Antonio on Wednesday.

With the Mavericks on the verge of securing the second seed, the Nuggets will finish at least in the third spot with a victory Tuesday. A win will match last season's total and give the franchise back-to-back division titles for the first time since its first two seasons (1976-78) in the NBA.

The Nuggets, though, have dropped 10 straight in Phoenix since a 111-96 victory April 7, 2004.

"I thought I won one there recently,'' Carmelo Anthony said Monday. "We'll get one tomorrow, hopefully.''

In the Nuggets' last visit to US Airways Center, they were held to 52 points in the final three quarters and lost 101-85 on March 1.

While Denver is one victory away from securing at least the No. 3 seed, Phoenix could also earn the third spot with a victory Tuesday plus one in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

"It's a great place to be in," Suns guard Steve Nash said after Sunday's 116-106 win over Houston. "It's going to be a lot of fun Tuesday. We've just got to come out and be solid and focused and play a good game."

Phoenix, winners of 12 of 14 overall, has won its last seven home games by an average of 17.9 points. The Suns are shooting 51.5 percent during this stretch while holding opponents to 42.6.

If the Nuggets can snap their six-year skid in Phoenix, either the Jazz or Suns will fall into the fifth seed and lose home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The return of forward Kenyon Martin has provided a much-needed boost to a Denver team that's played the last 13 games without coach George Karl, who continues to fight throat and neck cancer.

Martin, who returned Saturday after missing 18 games with left knee patellar tendinitis, had eight points, six rebounds, four steals and a block Monday.

"I think his energy, his defensive intensity tonight, especially on (Grizzlies forward) Zach Randolph, that helped us out a lot,'' Anthony said. "That's something that we've been missing.''

Martin, averaging 11.0 points and 9.7 rebounds against Phoenix this season, could need another big effort the way Amar'e Stoudemire has been playing. Stoudemire, the reigning Western Conference player of the month, is scoring 29.3 points per game with 9.6 rebounds during the Suns' home winning streak.

If Denver loses, it owns the tiebreaker over Utah and would still clinch the division title with one Jazz loss.

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