PHOENIX (AP) -Legs tired, the shots clanging away after playing the night before, the Phoenix Suns found a way to pull out a victory.
Maybe this team is finally starting to figure itself out, at least a little bit.
Getting a big night off the bench and gritty defense after a sluggish start, the Suns overcame a 15-point first-half deficit to beat the Denver Nuggets for the 12th straight time at home, 100-94 Monday night.
``I think guys are starting to get comfortable playing with each other and it's shown in the last couple of games we've played,' said Suns guard Jason Richardson, who had 11 points and six rebounds.
Phoenix had a nearly historic shooting night in beating the Los Angeles Lakers the day before, knocking down 22 3-pointers, one short of the NBA record. Tired from the late trip home, the Suns were nowhere close to that clip against Denver, hitting just 4 of 20, and were a step slow defensively through much of the first half.
But, energized by its bench, Phoenix made a run to get close in the third quarter, then grinded out the victory on the defensive end to win its third straight since opening the season 2-4.
The Suns had six players score in double figures, led by Warrick's 21 off the bench. Steve Nash had 15 points and seven assists, Channing Frye had 15 points and Grant Hill 14. Reserve Josh Childress added 10 key points and Hedo Turkoglu overcame a tough shooting night (3 for 10) with a big 3-pointer and a late block on Chauncey Billups' 3-point attempt to prevent Denver from rallying.
Not a team or role-defining win for a club that's still trying to find its identity, but a step in the right direction.
``We've still got to figure out exactly what we are and who we are,' coach Alvin Gentry said. ``We have our moments and stuff, but I think we still have to get to the point where, 20-25 games into this, we've got a really good idea of consistently what we're going to be.'
The Nuggets opened with a big first half, appearing ready to end their desert drought.
Denver's streak-busting night came apart under the weight of poor defense in the fourth quarter and selfishness throughout the second half. The Nuggets had just one assist in the second half and shot 29 percent in the fourth quarter, while the Suns went 11 of 18.
The result left Denver winless in Phoenix since April 7, 2004, before Nash rejoined the Suns.
``We didn't have (any) flow,' said Denver's Carmelo Anthony, who had 20 points and 22 rebounds. ``We weren't running our sets. They started making their run and we were just digging ourselves out of a hole.'
Both teams were coming off wins over the defending NBA champions.
The Nuggets handed the Lakers their first loss on Thursday, scoring a season-high 118 points in the win in Denver. Phoenix made it two straight back in Los Angeles on Sunday night, coming within one 3-pointer of the NBA single-game record.
That didn't figure to bode well for the Nuggets, who allowed Indiana to hit 16 of 30 from beyond the arc in their last road game, a 144-113 loss that included a 54-point third quarter by the Pacers.
Denver coach George Karl joked during the morning shootaround that hopefully the Suns shot all their 3-pointers against the Lakers - and he may have been right. Phoenix missed its first seven from long range and was 2 for 12 in the first half.
The Suns didn't have center Robin Lopez due to a knee sprain and weren't playing much defense, either, giving up too many shots inside and on the break - Denver had a three-on-none breakaway one trip in the first quarter - which wasn't a good combination.
Denver took a 15-point lead midway through the second quarter and kept the Suns from making a run, leading 58-46 at the half after shooting 26 of 52.
The Nuggets just couldn't hold it.
Phoenix chipped away at the lead in the third quarter and closed fast in the fourth, going up 85-82 with 6 1/2 minutes left on a 4-point play: Turkoglu's made basket and foul shot, topped by Frye's free throw after Billups was called for a technical foul.
Denver tried to claw back, but Nash and Turkoglu hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it 98-89 and didn't let the Nuggets make a run, extending their misery in the desert for yet another game.
``This is a game we should have won and we let it slip by us,' said Denver's Al Harrington, who had 14 points. ``We've got to get better closing out games.'
Notes: The officials called three other technical fouls: on Anthony for yelling in the second quarter, Nene in the third for swinging an elbow and Hill a few seconds later for arguing. ... Karl hasn't won in Phoenix since 1997, while coaching the Seattle SuperSonics. ... Phoenix is 1-3 on the second game of back-to-backs.
The Associated Press News Service
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