DENVER (AP) -- With their best player sidelined by a knee injury,
the New Jersey Nets got big contributions from elsewhere.
Kerry Kittles scored a season-high 34 points, including four
free throws in the final 15 seconds, and the Nets beat the Denver
Nuggets 95-91 Tuesday night.
Kenyon Martin added 22 points, including five straight points
for the Nets down the stretch, as New Jersey improved to 15-2 under
interim coach Lawrence Frank.
The Nets won despite the absence of All-Star point guard Jason
Kidd, who has a bone bruise in his left knee.
"That shows the character of this team," Kittles said. "We
faced some adversity, but it is a resilient bunch of guys. We are
veteran guys who know how to win. It really pays off when you play
in a game like tonight without your best player."
Kittles, who scored 21 of his points in the second half, said,
"You have to pick a team up. I had a little bit left in my tank
for the second half. The altitude, it's crazy up here.
"The key to the game tonight for us was our bench. They came in
and did a tremendous job of keeping us in the game."
"One of the keys to the game was our bench in the second
quarter, playing guys who haven't played a lot," he said. "The
game could have gone the other way with our starters in foul
trouble. They did more than hold serve. They did a great job."
Frank said Kittles was "phenomenal" and Martin was "huge."
Carmelo Anthony had 26 points, 15 of them in the first quarter,
as Denver lost for the sixth time in seven games.
"We got caught in a halfcourt game with them in the second
half," Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said, "and that's not good for
us. I couldn't get my guys to move and to run and to get into
people so we could create and force the tempo. That was a very bad
pace for us."
The Nets used a 7-0 run midway through the final quarter to open
an 84-77 lead. Denver responded with an 8-2 surge, including six
points by Voshon Lenard, to cut the deficit to 86-85.
Martin made a free throw with 2:04 left and, after Denver's
Andre Miller hit a jumper, Martin made back-to-back short jumpers
from the left side for a 91-87 lead with 21 seconds remaining.
Nene hit a pair of baskets in the waning seconds, but after each
basket the Nuggets fouled Kittles, who went 4-of-4 from the line --
the last pair with 11.1 seconds left.
Denver was without center Marcus Camby, who has a strained right
Anthony's first-quarter flurry helped give Denver a 30-22 lead.
Anthony had nine of the Nuggets' first 11 points, including a
driving layup and a 3-pointer. He later had a three-point play that
pushed the lead to 24-14.
The Nuggets scored six straight points midway through the second
quarter, including Anthony's 20-foot jumper, to make it 39-28. New
Jersey countered with a 10-2 run, including Martin's alley-oop slam
dunk and jump hook, cutting the deficit to 41-38.
Denver's Earl Boykins scored five points in the final 1:12 of
the half to make it 48-42 at halftime.
Kittles scored 15 points in the third quarter and the Nets shot
60 percent to take a 73-69 lead. Kittles had seven points during
New Jersey's 15-5 run late in the quarter.
Between the first and second quarters, Denver general
manager Kiki Vandeweghe presented Nuggets jerseys to Broncos wide
receiver Ed McCaffrey, his wife Lisa and four children. McCaffrey
announced his retirement earlier Tuesday after 13 NFL seasons. ...
Frank was named Eastern Conference coach of the month for February,
and Martin was named Eastern Conference player of the month. ...
Anthony was named Western Conference rookie of the month for the
fourth consecutive month. ... It was the opener of a four-game road
trip for New Jersey.