Phoenix Suns Drop Game in Denver, Beat Kobe-Less Los Angeles Lakers at Home
Friday's game was a gradual loss for the Suns after finishing the first quarter with a 29-21 lead, as they went into the half tied at 52, ended the third quarter down by five, and ended the game down by eight.
The Suns were definitely in it in the fourth quarter, as a Steve Nash bucket with three minutes to go put the Suns on top 98-97.
The problem is, the Suns only scored 98 points for the game, while the Nuggets kept adding.
A few possessions after Nash put the Suns up by one, Denver's Andre Miller hit a layup, and Aaron Afflalo hit a three-pointer on the next Nuggets possession, with less than a minute to go in the game.
After Al Harrington missed a three-pointer on the next Nuggets possession, and the Suns' Shannon Brown had a layup blocked on the Suns' next possession, the Suns resorted to fouling, allowing Miller to tack on a couple free throws to end the game 106-98.
After Nash hit the basket to put the Suns' total up to 98, the next 3:09 were not pretty for the Suns' shooting department.
Channing Frye missed a three-pointer, Nash missed a close jumper, got his own rebound, and missed a three-point attempt after that. Suns center Marcin Gortat got that rebound, and Frye missed a mid-range jumper after that -- which was finally rebounded by Denver.
On the next possession, it was a similar story -- Jared Dudley missed a three-pointer, Gortat got the offensive rebound, then he missed the short jumper.
Frye missed another three-pointer on the next possession. Brown was blocked on his layup attempt on the possession after that. The last attempt by the Suns -- a three-pointer from Dudley with two seconds left -- didn't go in either.
That's nine missed shots in the final two minutes of the game, for those who lost count.
Afflalo ended up with 30 points to lead Denver, and Brown led the Suns in scoring with 18.
Saturday night's game at home against the Lakers was actually a very similar game, except instead of missing every single shot in the last three minutes of the game, the Suns made every single shot in the last three minutes.
Kobe Bryant was out with a shin injury, which definitely made things easier for the Suns.
The Suns still looked a bit anemic early, allowing 32 points in the first quarter, but the Lakers blew that lead by halftime thanks to the Suns' Michael Redd.
Redd, who's been on-and-off the whole season, scored 17 of his 23 points in the second quarter, as the Suns went into the locker room at half with a 62-57 lead.
After the Suns hit six three-pointers in the third quarter -- four by Shannon Brown -- the Suns were able to extend that lead to 99-83 by the end of the third.
The Lakers never cut that lead to single-digits for the rest of the game, and the Suns increased their lead to 125-105 by the final buzzer.
The Suns relied on scoring from two of their most talented but inconsistent players in Saturday's game, Redd and Brown
Redd finished with 23 coming off the bench, and although he didn't shoot with exceptional accuracy, Redd hitting eight of 18 is something all Suns fans can live with.
Brown's 24 points, on nine of 19 shooting, was equally above-average, as he's been filling in for the injured Grant Hill pretty well.
Looking at Saturday's game against the Lakers, it was a very similar game to the one played the night before in Denver.
The Suns probably should have won that game in Denver were it not for those final three minutes of icy shooting, as some of the other statistics were well above average -- Frye pulled down 11 rebounds, and Gortat hauled in 14. Frye had three blocks, and Nash had 11 assists.
Had the Suns won that game against Denver, they would currently be tied with the Nuggets for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Instead, the Suns remain one game behind the Nuggets with 10 games left to play.
Friday's loss was the last Suns loss since dropping a game to the Los Angeles Clippers in L.A. on March 28, winning the other four games since then.
The only bad news about the playoff chances for the Suns is that seven of the last 10 games are against teams currently holding on to playoff spots, as only the Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trailblazers, and Utah Jazz are the only Suns opponents left with records worse than the Suns.
Speaking of playoffs, over in the National Hockey League, the Phoenix Coyotes won their first division championship in the history of the franchise, ending the regular season with a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.
The Coyotes kick off their playoff run in Glendale on Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.