for this game

Iverson, Nuggets continue Suns' struggles

Mar 6, 2008 - 7:20 AM By Blake Redabaugh PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DENVER (Ticker) -- The Denver Nuggets were finally able to make up some ground in the tightly contested Western Conference playoff race.

Allen Iverson scored 31 points and dished out 12 assists and Carmelo Anthony added 30 and 13 rebounds as the Nuggets defeated the Phoenix Suns, 126-113, on Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center.

Denver, which won for the third time in its last four games, improved to 36-24 on the season and finds itself one game behind Golden State (37-23) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Warriors lost in Charlotte on Wednesday.

"The urgency and spirit of the season has come early," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "It usually comes at the end of March or early April. It's not going to go away. It's great for the NBA."

Two of the league's highest scoring teams lived up to their reputations as both teams played little defense and shot above 50 percent from the field. A total of 13 players scored in double figures between the two teams.

Linas Kleiza's dunk with 7:49 remaining in the second quarter capped a key 16-0 run for the Nuggets which gave them a 49-40 lead. J.R. Smith, who hit two 3-pointers during the surge, scored 11 points in the quarter as the Nuggets took a 68-61 lead at halftime.

"(Smith) played well and just gave us a big lift," Iverson said. "We are going to need J.R. to play that way because he makes it so much easier for everybody else as far as spacing the court out."

"After the first quarter, we just didn't put up a lot of resistance," Suns guard Steve Nash said. "Tonight was a tough one, but we scored enough points to win. It was the defense that wasn't there tonight."

The Suns, who fell to 3-5 with Shaquille O'Neal in the lineup, had no answer for Anthony in the third quarter as the two-time All-Star caught fire, shooting 6-of-7 from the field and scoring 12 of his points as Denver led 101-89 at the end of the quarter.

"I just try to go out there and be aggressive," Anthony said. "The only thing we are worrying about is ourselves right now. We go out there and play like we did tonight, then we will be all right."

Denver, which had dropped 10 of the previous 12 meetings against Phoenix, put the game away in the fourth quarter as it took a 119-100 lead after Smith hit his sixth 3-pointer of the night with 6:12 remaining in the game.

"We didn't have enough energy to stay with them," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They turned it up and we didn't have any response. Every time we seemed to come back within six or seven, we just couldn't get over the hump."

Amare Stoudemire scored 22 points and Nash added 12 and 13 assists for the Suns(40-21), who now are one-half game behind Houston (40-20) for the fifth seed in the Western Conference.

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