Suns win season-high fifth straight
Grant Hill scored 23 points and Jason Richardson added 22 as the Phoenix Suns extended their season-high winning streak to five games with a 118-115 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.
Hill hit a 12-foot jump shot with 58.6 seconds remaining to give the Suns a 115-113 lead, then made a foul shot with 6.2 seconds left after Denver's Chauncey Billups missed a leaning 8-footer.
Billups, fouled by Hill with 5.4 seconds left to prevent the Nuggets from attempting a tying 3-pointer, made both free throws to cut the Suns' lead to 116-115. The Nuggets fouled Steve Nash on the inbound play, and he made both foul shots with 3.9 seconds left.
Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 29 points, but missed a 3 in the final second. Billups finished with 20 points.
Shaquille O'Neal, who played only 24 minutes because of foul trouble, had six of his 19 points in the final 5:04, when he made four of five free throws.
O'Neal also blocked Kenyon Martin's 8-footer from the lane with 1:10 remaining. Martin came down with the ball and was called for an offensive foul when he collided with Jared Dudley, who had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Martin had 18 points, and J.R. Smith added 14 for Denver, which had won five straight.
The Suns (39-31) closed within three games of idle Dallas for the final Western Conference playoff berth. They have gained three games on the Mavericks in 11 days and have one more game against Dallas.
Phoenix has won its last nine games against Denver at U.S. Airways Arena, every game since Nash returned to the franchise as a free agent.
Denver center Nene, who had 10 points, received a flagrant foul 2 and was ejected with 7:25 remaining when he grabbed Suns center Louis Amundson and threw him to the floor under the Suns basket after Billups missed a 3-point attempt with the Suns leading 97-96.
The Suns had a 46-33 rebounding edge and shot 50.6 percent from the field against a Denver defense that was limiting opponents to 44 percent. There were 58 fouls in the game and 77 free-throw attempts. The Suns were 34 of 44 from the foul line, while Denver was 29 of 33.
O'Neal played only 12 minutes in the first half while picking up two fouls, and got two more fouls in the first 6:25 of the third quarter and did not return until 6:05 remained, when Denver had a 100-97 lead.
The Nuggets opened the third quarter on a 22-8 run to take their biggest lead, 82-71. Nene and Anthony had eight points apiece in that stretch.
The Suns have average 131.5 points a game in their last four, passing Golden State to become the highest-scoring team in the NBA with a 108.8 average. The Suns ranked fifth in the league at 104.4 points per game when Alvin Gentry replaced Terry Porter at the All-Star break. ... The Suns led opponents for the previous 90 minutes, 19 seconds before Nene hit a 15-foot jumper 46 seconds into the third quarter Monday to give Denver a 64-63 lead. Phoenix led wire to wire in a 128-96 victory over Washington on Saturday and hadn't trailed since midway through the third quarter of a 116-106 victory over Philadelphia on March 18. ... The Suns have won 13 of the last 18 against Denver, and the last nine in Phoenix.