By Mike Tulumello, for NBA.com
THE FACTS: The Denver Nuggets have barged through the door of the NBA’s playoff party.
That door is still open, barely, for the Phoenix Suns.
The Nuggets became the seventh team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff spot with an easy 118-107 win over the Suns. They also pulled within a half-game of No. 6 Dallas, which plays at Chicago Saturday night.
For the Suns to make the playoffs, they’ll have to win at Utah Tuesday night then will have to win again at home Wednesday night against the sizzling San Antonio Spurs, who are gunning for the No. 1 spot in the West.
The Suns, with a win over the Nuggets, could have wrapped up the No. 8 spot simply by beating the Jazz. But after an emotional win Thursday night over the Los Angeles Clippers, they had little to offer vs. the Nuggets.
“Our whole team was lost defensively,” lamented Suns head coach Alvin Gentry, who also was disappointed in his team’s 17 turnovers, many unforced.
“They are just a really good offensive team. You turn the ball over against them, and they will are going to make you pay.”
Ty Lawson had 29 points, 10 assists and just one turnover to lead the Nuggets. He outplayed Steve Nash, who had eight points, 13 assists and five turnovers (he’s committed 16 turnovers the past three games).
“Nothing against Steve Nash; he’s definitely one of my idols,” Lawson said of his motivation.
“Maybe against the Phoenix organization, because they picked someone else in front of me when I came out of the draft. So that is probably the only added motivation I have.”
In 2009, the Suns picked forward Earl Clark No. 14, who played little for them, over Lawson (picked No. 18) by then-general-manager Steve Kerr and the Suns.
Also, Kenneth Faried, considered by the Suns’ in last year’s draft, had 18 points and 11 boards. Arron Afflalo had 19 points.
Shannon Brown led the Suns with 28 points, the second-highest scoring game of his career. But he shot a modest 10-for-24. Marcin Gortat had 18 points and 11 boards.
Sebastian Telfair shot 6-for-7 for 15 points off the bench.
In a game-time decision, Grant Hill, though not listed as injured or inactive before the game, ended up sitting out his fourth straight with knee soreness.
The availability of the Suns’ defensive specialist is uncertain for the final two games.
Also, Channing Frye suffered a shoulder injury and did not return after being hit by Danilo Gallinari.
QUOTABLE: “An incredible road win..never going under 10 points (the Nuggets’ lead late in the game)…a smart game, a complete game.
— Nuggets head coach George Karl.
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