DENVER -- Chauncey Billups has played long enough to know that one bad half does not a bad game make.
Billups shook off an awful first half Saturday night to lead the Denver Nuggets past Phoenix 105-99 in a Western Conference showdown that so frustrated Suns coach Alvin Gentry that he got tossed with just two seconds left.
Billups, whose first half included three turnovers and three fouls, scored 24 points and sank five 3-pointers in the second as the Nuggets overcame a 17-point deficit.
"I have confidence in myself, man," Billups said. "I'm not going to go out and just shoot and shoot and shoot and just do something crazy until I'm 1-for-25. I was having my way, to be honest with you, getting to the rack. But three fouls took my aggressiveness and some of my minutes, as well.
"But I knew at half, I said, 'I'm going to come out and I'm going to attack them.' I didn't know if I was going to get to the basket or not, but
Billups, who had seven points at the half, hit a trio of 3-pointers that sparked an 18-2 run to help Denver roar back.
It was almost all for naught, however, as Billups turned the ball over with 30 seconds left and the Nuggets leading 101-99.
Nash, who scored 28 points, drove past Nene but missed a layup with seven seconds left. Anthony ended up with the ball and was fouled with two seconds left.
"I went to the basket and missed the layup and that was pretty much the game," Nash said.
Gentry argued that a whistle should have been blown on Nene, putting Nash at the line.
"I don't know," Nash said. "It's tough to say."
Miffed by official Bill Kennedy's calls all night, Gentry finally lost it, hollering something that got him two quick technicals and an ejection from Bill Spooner.
Carmelo Anthony, who led Denver with 32 points, sank all four free throws.
Gentry refused to subject himself to a fine by criticizing the officiating afterward.
"I didn't see anything," he deadpanned. "They didn't call a foul, so obviously it wasn't a foul. I didn't see anything. I'm not giving them my money. So, no I didn't see anything. It was a great call. No call, that's fine."
Nuggets coach George Karl thought it was a good non-call.
"I thought it was just a good defense play by Nene. I didn't think it was a foul," Karl said. "But, again, I haven't studied the video. Nash has a way of leaning and Nene has a really good way of staying big but not fouling. My feeling is that Nene stayed big but didn't foul."
Kenyon Martin, whose two-game absence with a dislocated left pinkie coincided with upset losses at Charlotte and Detroit, returned to the Nuggets' lineup and pitched in 12 points and nine rebounds. He had his biggest impact unraveling Phoenix's pick-and-rolls, and in crunch time, when he blocked a shot by Nash with just under two minutes remaining and the Nuggets ahead 100-97.
"I'll tell you what, he does not get enough credit around here, man," Billups said. "Just defensively, and him being the quarterback and him being the emotional leader and him being vocal and the toughness he brings. He's up there being one of the MVPs of this team, man."
Martin has missed three games and much of another, all losses.
"Just do the math," Billups said. "It's not a coincidence."
For much of the night, it looked as if the Nuggets and not the Suns, who didn't get in until 4 a.m., were the ones playing for the second straight night.
Even with Nash on the bench, the Suns started the second quarter with a 19-2 run to take control at 45-31. Phoenix took a 60-47 lead into the locker room.
"There was a lot of frustration going around, from the two losses to the way we were playing in that first half," Anthony said. "Everybody was frustrated. At halftime, everybody came in here. Everybody's heads were up. We said, 'Let's just go fight."'
Denver still trailed by 17 points midway through the third quarter before storming back behind Billups, whose trio of 3-pointers sparked an 18-2 run that got the Nuggets back into the game.
"I think it was a character win for us," Anthony said. "For us to be down 17 here on our homecourt and to come back against one of the elite teams in the Western Conference is a confidence booster."
- Nash scored 11 of the Suns' first 12 points.
- Louis Amundson, who grew up in the Denver area, averages 4.7 points and 4.3 boards for the Suns, but he had 12 points and 11 rebounds Saturday night.
- Seldom-used G Anthony Carter logged 14 productive minutes for Denver.