Wallace scored 15 of his season-high 23 points in the second
quarter and Penny Hardaway finished with a triple-double to lead
the Phoenix Suns to a 109-92 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.
Afterward, coach Scott Skiles said he had a premonition that Wallace would have a big game because of the matchups against the Nuggets.
"It was just a matter that Scott felt he had to go with me
earlier than usual and I did what I could to help the team win the
game," said Wallace, who has sat the entire game eight times this
season. "Some nights it's going to be a matchup in my favor and
some nights it's not. So that's the discrepancy. Some games I play
and some games I don't."
Wallace sparked a second-quarter burst that propelled the Suns
from a 27-25 first-period deficit to a 58-51 halftime lead.
After that, the Suns never led by fewer than five points in
beating the Nuggets for the first time in three meetings this
season. Their biggest margin was the final score.
"The big thing was beating them," Wallace said. "They had beaten us twice this season and they felt like they owned us."
Hardaway, who hit the last two baskets of the game, finished
with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Rodney Rogers and
Marion each scored 22 points for the Suns.
"We had to win this game," Marion said. "We did it by being
aggressive and going to the boards."
Overall, the Suns outrebounded the Nuggets 60-44.
"We had nine offensive rebounds at halftime and 20-4
second-chance points," Skiles said. "That was definitely a key
factor in the game."
Nick Van Exel, a Suns nemesis, led the Nuggets with 24 points,
but he shot only 9-of-24 from the field. Avery Johnson added a
season-high 21 points for Denver.
Hardaway said he was told near the end of the game he had a
chance for his second triple-double of the season.
"They started telling me at about the five-minute mark," he
said. "They told me I needed two points and two rebounds. I knew
that two points would be OK. But you have to go through Shawn to
get the rebounds."
Wallace scored 19 points in the first half when the Suns used a
12-2 run in the final 3:33 to take their seven-point lead.
In the half, the Suns were being fed by their usually
high-scoring guards as Stephon Marbury and Hardaway each had six
assists and four points.
Phoenix got huge contributions from its reserves. In addition to
Wallace's production, Rogers scored nine points and Dan Majerle
seven, giving the Suns 35 points from their reserves in the half.
Phoenix's reserves finished with 52 points compared to 22 for the
The Nuggets, meanwhile, were feeding on their guards, with
Johnson scoring 16 points and Van Exel 15 in the half.
Phoenix also showed lots of hustle under its offensive basket,
getting 14 points in the paint to Denver's two in the half.
"Overall, we've been close in most games on the road with
opportunities to win, but we shoot ourselves in the foot," Denver
coach Mike Evans said. "Tonight we had a comedy of errors at the
end of the second quarter. We didn't have the manpower, they were
fresher and they got a big lift from their bench."
Marbury wound up with 18 points and a game-high 12 assists as
the Suns finished with a season-high 36 assists.
Game notes The triple-double was the fourth of Hardaway's career. ...
The Suns have had at least one 20-point scorer in each of their 31
games. ... Phoenix's Tony Delk missed his second straight game
because of a strained right knee. ... Wallace's previous high this
season was 19 points against Sacramento on Dec. 12. His career high
is 30, twice when he was with Toronto in 1997. ... Nine members of
the Fire Department of New York and one member of the New York
Police Department attended the game. ... Denver is 0-11 when an
opponent scores at least 100 points. ... The Nuggets have lost
eight straight road games.