Katie Wilson sang the National Anthem Monday night at US Airways Center, but it probably should have been Bobby McFerrin, since his famous lyrics summed up the evening’s sentiments perfectly. “Don’t worry … be happy.”
Two days after the Suns hit an emotional low with a loss to New Orleans and a hangover that dragged through the weekend with Amaré Stoudemire missing practice, the Suns had their biggest offensive night of the season against the Midwest Division-leading Nuggets – tying a franchise record with 20 3-pointers in a 137-115 boat race that had fans celebrating until the final buzzer.
A day that began with a pep talk from general manager Steve Kerr at the morning shootaround – reminding the team that it still had one of the best records in the league and needed to start acting like it – ended with the Suns shooting 54 percent from the field, dishing out 32 assists, scoring 46 points in the first quarter and never looking back.
“I think our death was a little bit over exaggerated,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Just 1-6 against Western Conference playoff teams coming in, the Suns had no such troubles this time against the 21-13 Nuggets and thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the process. The franchise records for high-fives, back-slaps and butt-patting were probably in danger as well.
“The energy was good this morning and we carried it over to the court,” said forward Grant Hill, who had 20 points in just 22 minutes and was one of the Suns who seemingly couldn’t miss. “If this team was 31-4, we’d still have naysayers out there telling us we can’t win. So the more adversity we go through during the season, things like these last few days, the more we can overcome and grow from and the more prepared we’ll be when it really counts.”
Everywhere you looked, Suns were busting out. Shawn Marion tied two career highs with five 3-pointers (all of them in the first half) and six blocks and had a season-high 27 points in 32 minutes. Stoudemire was limited to 23 minutes by foul trouble, but still managed 20 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus Banks had a night to remember off the bench with 23 points – hitting seven of his eight 3-pointers.
The Nuggets got 32 points from Allen Iverson and 20 from Carmelo Anthony, but knew right away they were the victim of some unfortunate scheduling when the Suns hit nine of their first 10 shots, and led by 14 before many fans found their seats.
“It was a bad-timing game,” Denver coach George Karl said. “They had a bad loss and obviously they’re disappointed with how they’ve been playing and came out with a professional attitude to improve and show their pride.
“Shawn Marion’s 3’s were probably within the concept of the gameplan … I don’t think we expect Marcus Banks to make seven out of eight.”
Suns center Brian Skinner ended a 78-point first half with the second 3-pointer of his career – both this season, and both buzzer-beaters before intermission. A strange day ended with that kind of night.