Nuggets 118, Suns 98

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 17, 2013
The Denver Nuggets secured the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs by routing the Phoenix Suns 118-98 on Wednesday night behind 21 points from Wilson Chandler and 20 from Andre Iguodala. Their opponent in the first round wasn't determined until the late games on the West Coast wrapped up. All they knew for sure after the buzzer was that they'll start the playoffs at home - where they've won a franchise-best 23 straight games to finish with the league's best home mark - 38-3 - eclipsing the old record of 36-5 set in 1976-77, their first year in the NBA. They also won an NBA franchise record 57 games overall, besting the 54-win seasons of 1987-88 and 2008-09. Luis Scola's 17 points and 11 rebounds led the Suns, who wrapped up the second-worst season in franchise history with a mark of 25-57, the worst in the West. The only one that was worse for the Suns was their inaugural NBA season in 1968-69, when they went 16-66. The Nuggets have won 40 of 50 this calendar year, putting coach George Karl and vice president Masai Ujiri in the conversation for coach and executive of the year honors, respectively barely two years after Carmelo Anthony forced his way out of town. Lacking a star, the Nuggets won more games than ever before by relying on teamwork, ball movement and a deep roster that's so far withstood the losses of Danilo Gallinari (ACL), who's out for the season, and Kenneth Faried (ankle), whom they're hoping can return in the first round of the playoffs. Even though the Nuggets had their best record since joining the league out of the old ABA 37 years ago, they needed a win in their last game of the regular season to secure the No. 3 seed in the West. ''We've played 81 games and we've gone one more really important one,'' Karl said before tipoff. ''I don't think it's overly important one way or the other, other than I think we'd rather get third than fourth.'' With the third through eighth seeds not settled until the last night of the season, the Nuggets started their game not knowing whether they'd face Memphis, Golden State or Houston in the first round this weekend. ''We all have a feeling what's a better matchup, but come on, man, realistically ... with the history of my time of coaching says is just go do the right thing, go win every game you can and see where it falls,'' Karl said. The Nuggets gave Karl just what he wanted to sooth any nerves - some breathing room with a 66-40 halftime lead. It helped that the Suns were missing guard Goran Dragic (ankle), who had 21 points and 14 assists in a win over Houston on Monday, his fourth straight double-double. Although Dragic was listed as out with an ankle injury, he suffered a cut above his left eye Monday night when he took a charge from James Harden that required several stitches. Dragic was replaced by rookie Kendall Marshall in the starting lineup. Denver raced out to a 35-20 lead after one quarter and used a 10-0 spurt to push it past 20 points early in the second quarter, allowing Karl to begin substituting freely with an eye toward preserving the health of his banged-up lineup. The Nuggets, who led 91-69 after three quarters, had 11 players post double-digit minutes, including Anthony Randolph, who had 11 points and 14 rebounds and Timofey Mozgov with 10 and 10. Notes: The Nuggets held a moment of silence before the game to remember the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. ... Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter went 12-29 after taking over in January. ... Denver's 57 wins are the most for Karl since his Seattle team went 61-21 in 1997-98. ... The Nuggets made the playoffs for the 10th straight season. --- Follow AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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