Suns host Anthony, streaking Nuggets
By NOEY KUPCHAN
Carmelo Anthony has made a habit of making game-winning shots, something the Phoenix Suns know all too well.
After hitting his 14th career game-winning shot in the Denver Nuggets' last game, Anthony will try to carry that momentum into his team's matchup with the visiting Suns on Sunday night.
Anthony's 23-foot jumper as time expired lifted the Nuggets to their season-high third straight victory, 98-97 over Chicago on Friday night.
"See, I told you. I take that same shot, nine out of 10 times, I'll make it," said Anthony, who finished with 22 points despite battling flulike symptoms that had him feeling, as he put it, "terrible" for much of the game.
Anthony ranks fourth among active players with 13 regular-season game-winning shots, trailing only Kobe Bryant (21), Vince Carter (15) and teammate Chauncey Billups (15).
Phoenix has taken four in a row from Denver, but experienced Anthony's late-game heroics first-hand Jan. 10, 2006, when it was defeated 139-137 in triple overtime as the three-time All Star sank a pull-up jumper with 2.9 seconds left.
The Nuggets (9-6) will look to extend their five-game home winning streak. They are averaging 109.3 points at home - third-best in the league - compared to 99.1 on the road.
Billups is hoping to return to Denver's lineup after missing two games with a broken nose and sprained right wrist.
"I just hate not playing," said Billups, whose status for this one is uncertain. "I hate not being able to be out there, even if I'm not 100 percent. I'm rarely 100 percent anyway. I at least want to be able to do some of the things I normally do."
Phoenix (8-8) is coming off a 116-108 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, but almost let the game get away after scoring a season-high 42 points in the first quarter.
The Suns led by as many as 25 but saw their lead trimmed to four in the third quarter, and coach Alvin Gentry knows his players need to come out with a full 48-minute effort going forward.
"Once again we got off to a good start," he said. "We have to find a way to maintain it. We have to be consistent. We have to do a better job of closing out games."
Phoenix is second in the league with 107.9 points per game, but is allowing an NBA-worst 55.2 points in the second half of games.
"I think we got to do a better job just not taking our foot off the gas and just keep on going," said Hakim Warrick, who had 25 points off the bench. "Teams are too good in this league and we got to play the way we played to get that lead."
Jason Richardson scored 29 Friday and leads the team with 19.9 points per game, but he has been held to 13.0 in his last five contests against Denver.
Steve Nash, who had 16 points and 10 assists versus the Clippers, is one 3-pointer shy of becoming the 13th player in NBA history to knock down 1,500 shots from beyond the arc.
Since re-joining the Suns in 2004-05, Nash has gone 46 for 98 (46.9 percent) from long distance against the Nuggets.
Anthony, who is averaging 24.6 points against the Suns, recorded a career-high 22 rebounds against them in a 100-94 loss Nov. 15.
Updated November 28, 2010