Suns 109, Nuggets 97

The road has become Amare Stoudemire’s sanctuary, his place to

clear his mind and get away from all the swirling trade rumors and

speculation.

He’s free to simply focus on what he does best: Turning in big

games.

Stoudemire had 20 points and 17 rebounds, leading the Phoenix

Suns to a 109-97 victory Wednesday night over a Denver squad

missing Carmelo Anthony.

“It’s definitely great to be on the road and get away from all

the trade talk for a while,” said Stoudemire, averaging 27 points

and 13.3 rebounds over his last three road games.

In recently weeks, Stoudemire has heard his name pop up in one

trade rumor after another. Suns coach Alvin Gentry even had a

discussion with his big man about all the speculation, simply

reminding Stoudemire the situation is completely out of his

control.

“I told him he’s got to try to put it behind him and move on

because whatever happens is going to happen,” Gentry said. “It

always happens this time of year, there’s someone that’s always the

talk – it just happens to be him this year.”

What’s fueling the trade rumors is the fact that Stoudemire can

opt out of the final year of his deal after the season. The Suns

could decide to trade Stoudemire to get some value from him rather

than let him walk away.

For now, though, Stoudemire said he’s simply leaving all his

options open.

“It’s in my contract so I have to make sure every option’s

available,” Stoudemire said. “That is an option of mine to opt in

for another year. There’s nothing more or less to it, I just have

the opt-in clause.”

The Nuggets had few solutions for Stoudemire, who hit 8 of 14

shots and all four free throw attempts.

“He’s a beast,” Joey Graham said. “It’s tough when you got a

guy like that inside and you’ve got guys shooting 3s on the

outside.”

The Suns were simply clicking Wednesday, shooting nearly 50

percent from the field.

Jason Richardson added 20 points, and Steve Nash had 17 points

and 10 assists as the Suns matched a season high with their fourth

straight win.

“We played well from the start to the finish,” Gentry

said.

This isn’t the easiest of arenas to win in, either. The Nuggets

had won nine straight at Pepsi Center before Phoenix snapped the

streak.

Nene and J.R. Smith each scored 15 points for the Nuggets.

Anthony sat out a sixth straight game because of a sprained left

ankle. He injured his ankle Jan. 23 against New Orleans and it has

taken longer than expected to heal.

The All-Star forward paced the sideline in a suit and tie trying

to energize the Nuggets. But that didn’t quite work out. Not the

way the Suns were knocking down shots.

Phoenix led 86-72 heading into the fourth quarter and extended

the lead to 22.

The Nuggets made a late charge, cutting it 14 points with 2:19

remaining. And while the Suns wouldn’t score the rest of the way,

the Nuggets couldn’t capitalize – managing only a late basket by

Graham.

“We have a great ability to turn it on and still win,” Nuggets

coach George Karl said. “Tonight, that gig didn’t work.”

Karl pondered the question for a little bit when asked what

frustrated him most about the loss. He gave careful consideration

before responding.

“Winning breeds arrogance, happiness,” Karl said. “Those are

usually bad traits to have on a team. The traits you want on your

team are hungry, intense, confident. … On your home court, you

should be very annoyed when another team outworks you.”

Chauncey Billups found out before the game that he was added to

the All-Star squad, replacing injured New Orleans star Chris

Paul.

So much for those vacation plans. Billups’ intention was to take

the family to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for some fun and relaxation

over the All-Star break.

Now, that just may have to wait.

Billups is in the midst of one of his finest seasons, averaging

a career-best 19.4 points coming into the game.

He had a rough night Wednesday, finishing with 11 points on

5-of-14 shooting.

Shutting him down was all part of Phoenix’s plan.

“I thought we did a good job on Chauncey,” Gentry said. “He

seems to be a guy, in these situations, that seems to step up and

come up with a big basket.”

NOTES: Phoenix had six players score in double figures. …

Kenyon Martin had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Denver.