PHOENIX (AP) – Channing Frye appeared to have his career-high scoring night in the bag until the Phoenix Suns reserves played so well that he didn’t get back in the game.
Frye had to settle for a season-high 30 points instead in the Suns’ 117-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.
“For me it is just constant movement and shooting shots that I know are good shots,” Frye said, “and just not even thinking about it and letting them go. Tonight they went in.”
After missing all of last season for treatment of an enlarged heart, Frye made 12 of 16 shots and 5 of 7 3-pointers in his strongest game yet in an impressive comeback season – then he sat out the final 9 1/2 minutes.
“He was hot from the start,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He makes it very difficult on teams, playing the four spot, when he’s making those shots.”
Markieff Morris scored 16 and Goran Dragic 15 for the Suns, who never trailed and improved to 3-0 against Denver this season with one game to play.
Anthony Randolph scored a season-best 19 for the Nuggets, who have lost four of five and were without guard Randy Foye because of a stomach virus. Evan Fournier, Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler added 17 points apiece for Denver.
In his most extensive minutes of the season since returning from an ankle injury, Suns rookie center Alex Len had nine points and six rebounds, pressed into added duty when Miles Plumlee tweaked an ankle.
Leandro Barbosa, in his home debut after rejoining the franchise where he had his greatest NBA success, scored 13. He had missed the previous two games with a sore right shoulder.
“He got to the hole several times,” Hornacek said. “It doesn’t even look like he’s going that hard, but he knows when to do it. He takes one or two dribbles and that explosive step is what gets him by people. … That could be a big weapon for us as we go forward.”
The Suns never fell behind two nights after they never had the lead in a home loss to Dallas.
“Once again our defense failed us,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “We gave up 117 points for the fourth consecutive game and it happened from the starters through the guys who came off the bench. The guys who came off the bench (for Phoenix) played so well they never had to come back to their starters.
The Nuggets managed three ties in the first quarter before Phoenix took the lead for good when Frye’s 22-footer made it 21-19 with 4:27 left in the opening quarter.
The Suns led by as many as 11 early in the second quarter and were up 62-56 at the half. Phoenix opened the second half with a 9-1 run to take its biggest lead, 71-57, after Dragic banked in a running 10-footer.
Denver got back in it with a flurry of 3-pointers and offensive rebounds.
Chandler scored 11 in the third quarter, including three 3-pointers, and Denver cut the lead to 77-73 on Fournier’s 3 with 4:02 to left in the period. Denver had a chance to get closer moments later, but Hickson missed two free throws.
Baskets by Frye and Leandro Barbosa boosted the Suns’ lead to 84-77 before Lawson’s late driving layup cut their margin to 84-79 entering the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets started the fourth with a basket to cut it to 84-81, but that’s as close as it got. Frye sank a 3-pointer to start a 7-0 spurt that made it 91-81 10:12 from the end. Denver sliced it to 91-86, then Phoenix scored the next seven and the Nuggets never got it closer than nine again.
“We score enough points,” Lawson said. “No defense.”
NOTES: The Suns shot 50.5 percent. They are 7-0 when they shoot 50 percent or better. … The Suns haven’t swept the Nuggets since 2004-05. … The Suns signed Barbosa to a second 10-day contract Saturday and are expected to sign him for the rest of the season when that deal expires as the team awaits the return some weeks away of guard Eric Bledsoe after knee surgery. … In their last meeting, Dec. 20, Phoenix rallied from 21 down to win in Denver 103-99. … Next up for Phoenix, a home game against Indiana on Wednesday night.
By BOB BAUM, AP Sports Writer
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