Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 10/30

Game 1: Tuesday, October 30th
Game 2: Saturday, December 15th
Game 3: Saturday, December 29th
Game 4: Saturday, April 13th

Nuggets 92


Suns 109

(18-13, 11-6 home)

    7:00 PM ET, December 29, 2001

    US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

    1 2 3 4 T
    DEN 27 24 20 2192
    PHX 25 33 24 27109

    Top Performers

    Den: R. LaFrentz 11 Pts, 13 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 7 Blk

    PHX: S. Marion 22 Pts, 11 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

    Wallace seizes his opportunity to make Suns winners

    PHOENIX (AP) -- John Wallace doesn't get a lot of opportunities to play for the Phoenix Suns, so he made the most of it when Shawn Marion picked up three early fouls.


    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 Nuggets' bench.

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 92 109
    FGM-FGA 36-80 (.450) 43-91 (.473)
    3PM-3PA 5-18 (.278) 5-15 (.333)
    FTM-FTA 15-22 (.682) 18-23 (.783)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-36 16-49
    Assists 21 36
    Turnovers 17 15
    Steals 9 12
    Blocks 10 4
    Fast Break Points 12 4
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (2/0) 21 (2/0)

    Top Performers

    Raef LaFrentz LaFrentz
    Points: 11
    Reb: 13
    Ast: 2
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 7
    Shawn Marion Marion
    Points: 22
    Reb: 11
    Ast: 2
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 0