The Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets both used impressive wins over the defending NBA champions to move over .500.
They’ll meet Monday night in Phoenix, where the Nuggets have lost 11 straight times and haven’t won since Carmelo Anthony’s rookie season.
Phoenix (5-4) and Denver (5-4) are the only teams to beat the Lakers this season. The Nuggets handed the reigning two-time champions their first loss, 118-112 on Thursday before the Suns went into Los Angeles and won 121-116 on Sunday.
Jason Richardson made seven of Phoenix’s 22 3-pointers Sunday as the Suns fell just shy of the league record of 23 set by Orlando against Sacramento in January 2009.
“You just feel like the basket is huge and that every shot you throw up is going to go in,” said Richardson, who scored 35 points. “(Coach) Alvin (Gentry) was calling plays for me and my teammates were finding me. It was just fun to have a night like that.”
The Suns have had nights like that to a lesser degree during their home dominance of the Nuggets. They are shooting 47.5 percent on 3-pointers during the 11-game run, making 14 of 24 in a 123-101 win April 13 in their regular-season home finale in the Nuggets’ last visit.
Anthony had 36 points and 11 rebounds in Denver’s last win at Phoenix, 111-96 on April 7, 2004. He’s averaging 20.5 points on 38.8 percent shooting in his last six games at the US Airways Center.
Defending the 3-point arc is sure to be a concern for Denver after how it played in its last road game, a 144-113 loss to Indiana last Tuesday. The Pacers made 16 of 30 3-pointers, and 20 of 21 shots overall in a 54-point third quarter.
That defeat was fresh in the Nuggets’ minds two nights later when they turned in their highest scoring effort of the season to beat the Lakers. Anthony had 32 points and 13 boards.
“We dropped two in a row against Chicago, that record-setting game against Indiana,” Anthony said. “We came back here and got that monkey off our back. The way we bounced back tonight, the way we responded, I’m proud of my team.”
The Nuggets will try to slow down a Phoenix attack led by Steve Nash, who had 21 points and 13 assists Sunday. Nash did not reach double figures in assists in his first five games while adjusting to playing without the departed Amare Stoudemire, but the two-time league MVP has averaged 13.3 over his last four contests.
Richardson has become more of the focal point of the offense, with two games with at least 30 points this season to match his total from 2009-10.
“I’m my toughest critic and sometimes when I miss two shots in a row, I get down on myself,” Richardson said. “But I didn’t worry about that.”
Suns starting center Robin Lopez sprained his left knee and didn’t return for the second half Sunday. He is day to day.