PHOENIX (AP) - The Denver Nuggets’ leading scorer was hurt. Another starter was out due to illness.
And the team had just suffered an embarrassing home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The response? A spirited 104-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.
“Fifteen years in the league that is one of the better wins I have been a part of,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We had every reason to go out there and feel sorry for ourselves and not show up.”
Randy Foye scored a season-high 31 points, hitting seven 3-pointers in 16 attempts, to lead Denver.
The Nuggets, losers at home to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, bolted to a 22-point lead in the first half, withstood a second-half Suns rally and pulled away.
“I told them after the game be proud how we were able to complete,” Malone said. “Our bench was terrific tonight, our defense was terrific. That is a character win for a team that has been struggling. “
Darrell Arthur had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Denver, and Will Barton scored 17 points.
Brandon Knight scored 21 points, Ronnie Price had a career-high 20, including a career-best six 3-pointers in nine tries, and Jon Leuer added 18 for the Suns. They have lost three in a row and five of six.
Suns forward Markieff Morris threw a towel in the direction of coach Jeff Hornacek on the bench in the fourth quarter. Hornacek said he would look in to disciplinary action against the power forward, who wanted to be traded in the offseason after Phoenix dealt his twin brother Marcus. Morris long since has lost his starting job.
“He’s mad about not playing,” Hornacek said. “I look at the stat sheet, he’s a minus-13 (points) in 12 minutes. So there I took him out. He thinks he is better than that. Well, show me.”
Morris did not return to the game.
“I am not going to talk about this,” Morris said. “It is between me and Coach Hornacek.”
Hornacek was upset about a lot more than Morris.
“Our guards are getting lit up,” Hornacek said. “It’s as simple as that. Until they take some pride in stopping somebody, then it will continue.”
The Nuggets were down five players, including two starters, and had just one point guard available. But they got off to a dominating start anyway.
A 16-1 run put Denver ahead 40-22 on Barton’s 5-footer with 9:22 left in the half. A pair of 3s by Morris cut the lead to 42-28, but Denver scored the next eight to go up 50-28 6:50 before halftime. Phoenix outscored the Nuggets 22-6 the rest of the half, Price’s 3-pointer just before the buzzer cutting the Denver lead to 56-50 at the break.
Phoenix took the lead at 62-61 on another 3 by Price with 8:48 left in the third quarter and was up 66-63 after Leuer’s jumper with 6:51 to go in the period.
“We knew they were going to make a run on their home court,” Foye said. “Our whole thing was to keep our composure and continue to play together. We knew if we played together and moved the ball we could get any shot we wanted.”
Denver regained control and pulled away. Barton’s 3-pointer and Kenneth Faried’s inside basket put the Nuggets ahead 95-87 with 4:27 left.
“It seemed like every time we closed the gap to three, four or five points they would hit a three and we were down eight,” Price said. “We would then come down and miss a shot then get down 10.”
Nuggets: Were without leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (17.3 points) for the second game in a row with a left ankle sprain. … Foye started in place of Jameer Nelson, who was out with an illness.
Suns: Eric Bledsoe was 2 of 11 shooting for nine points. … Hornacek still needs one win to reach 100 for his career. … Price’s previous career high was 18.
Nuggets: At San Antonio on Saturday night.
Suns: Host Philadelphia on Saturday night.
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