The Phoenix reserves inspired a second-quarter comeback from a 13-point deficit as the Suns beat the Denver Nuggets 101-85 on Monday night. Goran Dragic scored 10 first-half points off the bench while substitutes accounted for 24 of 33 second-quarter points. Amare Stoudemire had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns, who won their fifth game in a row at home and their sixth of their last seven overall.
"They gave us a lead, a comfortable lead, and we came out in the second half and kept it going," said Stoudemire of the bench players. Channing Frye scored seven points in the second quarter and Louis Amundson added five points, five rebounds and a pair of blocked shots in the period as the Suns outscored Denver 33-11 to turn a 13-point deficit into a 57-44 half-time lead. "It happened so fast," said Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 17 points on seven-of-21 shooting.
The success of the Phoenix bench allowed Alvin Gentry, their coach, to sit starters Stoudemire, Steve Nash and Robin Lopez for the entire second quarter. "They didn't get in at all in the second [quarter] but they were the first guys off the bench when they were coming out," Gentry said. "That's what makes this team special, how they pull for each other." Chauncey Billups top-scored for Denver with 21.
"Every time you mention defence and the Suns, people get these sarcastic smiles on their faces," Gentry said. "But we are getting better defensively." Elsewhere in the NBA, the Atlanta Hawks pulled away in the fourth quarter to comfortably beat the Chicago Bulls 116-92. Jamal Crawford scored 21 points and Josh Smith added 17 points and a season-high 18 rebounds for the visiting Hawks, whose 18-point second-quarter lead was cut to five early in the fourth.
"[Smith] does it all on the court," said Crawford, a former Bull. "He blocks shots. He rebounds, he gets steals, he scores, he assists. He's a wonderful player and a great teammate." "I'm playing with a chip on my shoulder, however, I know it's most important to win," Smith said, when asked about getting passed over for the All-Star Game. "I am focused on winning all of them from here on out." The Cleveland Cavaliers used a 74-point first half to hammer the New York Knicks 124-93 in the Cavaliers' first game since learning that Shaquille O'Neal will be out for the rest of the regular season.
The Cavaliers did not miss the 15-time All-Star, who had surgery on an injured right thumb on Monday and is expected to be out for two months. LeBron James scored 22 points and had seven rebounds and seven assists for Cleveland, who claimed their biggest winning margin of the season. James, who dismissed a question about joining the Knicks next season, was asked if he could play for a team with little emphasis on defence. "I'm a winner. I just want to win," he said. "I've yet to play for a team that doesn't like defence, but that's not about the team, it's about individuals first. Individuals have to want the responsibility to guard the guy in front of them and then it makes it a lot easier as a team."
* With agencies