Boykins' six steals ignite third-quarter rally


DENVER (AP) -- The league's smallest player sure created a big
headache for the Denver Nuggets.

Earl Boykins scored 20 points and had six of his seven steals during a key third-quarter run as the Golden State Warriors overcame a 21-point deficit to beat the Nuggets 92-82 Friday night.

With Denver leading 65-44 midway through the third quarter, Golden State coach Eric Musselman brought in Boykins to put some pressure on Denver's guards. Instead, the 5-foot-5 guard took over the game.

Hounding Denver's point guards into mistakes and breaking out for layups, Boykins led a 23-2 run to end the third quarter. He had six steals in a span of 4:06 and capped the run on a layup with 35 seconds left that pulled the Warriors to 67-66.

"He totally ignited us,'' Musselman said. "Our second-half defense was phenomenal from the time he checked in through the last 18 minutes of the game. Defensively, we changed our whole mentality.''

Denver stayed close in the early part of the fourth quarter, but Boykins hit a 10-foot jumper to start a 9-2 run that put Golden State up 83-74 with six minutes left. He later put the game away with a pair of runners that gave the Warriors an 88-75 lead.

Not bad for a player who wasn't even in the league three days earlier.

"He (Musselman) told me I would play today,'' said Boykins, who signed with Golden State on Wednesday. "I was prepared and I was ready. I didn't come here to take over games, but I came here to get wins.''

He got both against a Denver team that found yet another way to lose.

Denver, the league's lowest-scoring team, scored the second-lowest points in league history (53) against Detroit on Nov. 16 and set an NBA record with three points in the first quarter of a 99-68 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday.

But the Nuggets didn't seem comfortable playing with a large
lead, either.

After taking a 65-43 lead on a layup by Nene Hilario, Denver was
outscored 48-17 over the final 17 minutes. The Nuggets had 15 of
their 25 turnovers and were just 13-for-33 from the field in the
second half, on their way to a second straight loss after a
three-game winning streak.

"It's kind of ironic that we saw a team do what we have had done to us,'' Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "This time we got the big lead, and we just kind of unraveled with discipline and poise. All of a sudden, they got a little life and the momentum totally changed.''

Juwan Howard led Denver with 19 points and 13 rebounds.

Gilbert Arenas added 27 points and seven assists for Golden
State, which won for just the third time in eight games.

Denver took a 63-43 lead after opening the third quarter with a
14-3 run, but then the Nuggets went cold.

They were 1-for-11 and had eight turnovers in the final 7:10 of
the third, with their only points coming on two free throws by Nene
Hilario with 3:14 left.

"We started to put our heads down as the lead started
disappearing, and we couldn't get it back,'' Bzdelik said. "A very
tough loss, a very disappointing loss.''

The game featured two of the worst-shooting teams in the league,
which was apparent early.

Golden State missed its first six shots and had just two points
until Arenas made a 3-pointer from the wing 5:12 into the game. It
didn't get much better as the Warriors finished the first quarter
shooting 5-for-18 with six turnovers.

Denver opened 2-for-10 but eventually did find the range.

The Nuggets hit 7 of 9 shots to end the first with a 23-16 lead,
then opened the second with an 11-4 run. Howard capped it with a
three-point play, punctuating it with a couple of pushups after the
ball fell through.

The Nuggets lost forward Chris Andersen to a broken right thumb
1:40 into the second quarter when he hit the backboard while trying
to block Jason Richardson's shot. Andersen had a huge knot on his
knuckle after the play and went immediately to the locker room.

Game notes
Denver activated PG Chris Whitney from the injured list
before the game. G Predrag Savovic (sprained right ankle) went to
the injured list to make room on the roster. ... Denver received a
technical foul in the final seconds of the second quarter for
having too many players on the court. ... Golden State won for the
first time in nine games when failing to score 100 points. ... The
Warriors won for just the fifth time in their last 15 games in