DENVER (AP) — This time, the Denver Nuggets didn’t let the Phoenix Suns run free up and down the court.
Arron Afflalo led seven Nuggets in double figures with 22 points, and Denver’s defense stiffened in a 122-97 win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
Timofey Mozgov added 13 points as the Nuggets snapped a five-game losing streak to the Suns, who took the first of their home and home series on Wednesday after sweeping four meetings between the teams last season.
Eric Bledsoe had 16 points to lead Phoenix, which had an off night shooting in the face of Denver’s defensive pressure. The Suns connected on 38.8 percent of their shots from the field after hitting 51.1 percent in its runaway 120-112 win two nights ago.
“Flat out, defense was the difference,” said J.J. Hickson, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. “I think we got back and made them play in the half court. We challenged a lot of their shots and we made it tough on them.”
Goran Dragic said the Nuggets took the Suns out of their rhythm.
“They were more active,” Dragic said. “They were more dominant in defense and offensive rebounds. Early in the game, we couldn’t make a shot and they were making everything.”
Helped by their deep rotation and dominance on the boards (Denver outrebounded Phoenix 58-34), the Nuggets opened a 66-47 halftime lead, piling up the most points in a half by a Suns’ opponent this season.
Leading 77-57, the Nuggets stretched their advantage to 88-59 with 5:11 left in the third quarter behind an 11-2 run that included 3-pointers by Wilson Chandler and Afflalo.
Denver took a 99-70 lead into the final period.
The Suns put together an 8-0 burst, capped by a dunk from Archie Goodwin to pull to 101-80 early in the fourth quarter but Denver gradually pulled away again. Danilo Gallinari’s 3-pointer with 6:18 left to play put the Nuggets in front by 25 points.
“Defense wins games and we all know that,” Gallinari said. “We have to keep this formula that we have going, which is keeping teams under 100 points.”
The Nuggets improved to 6-0 this season when holding their opponents under 100 points.
Suns: Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer, missed the game with a right ankle contusion. … The 122 points by the Nuggets was the most by a Suns’ opponent this season, surpassing the 120 points Phoenix gave up to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 15. … Phoenix made eight of its 23 3-point attempts, snapping a string of four consecutive games in which it had made at least 12 3-pointers.
Nuggets: Danilo Gallinari resumed his place in the Nuggets’ rotation after missing the second half of Wednesday’s game at Phoenix with left knee soreness. … Denver had its season high in points against Phoenix, eclipsing the 117 it had against New Orleans. … Denver had 10 steals in a game for the fourth time this season.
Suns: Host Orlando on Sunday.
Nuggets: at Utah on Monday.
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