<
>

Denver very much in playoff chase

3/23/2004

DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Nuggets were in need of a win.

The injury-riddled Los Angeles Clippers were more than happy to
oblige.

Carmelo Anthony had 22 points to lead six Denver players in
double figures, helping the Nuggets end a three-game losing streak
with a 102-80 win over the Clippers Monday night.

Denver dropped out of the top eight in the Western Conference
with a 21-point loss to Minnesota on Sunday. The Nuggets moved back
ahead of idle Utah with good shooting and one of their best
defensive performances in a month.

"We're in this thing despite what's happened the past couple of
weeks," Nuggets guard Jon Barry said. "If you said that we'd be
right here with 10 games to go with a chance to get in the
playoffs, I think everybody would take it. So forget about the last
two weeks."

Denver's struggles over the past month have come from poor
execution on defense, which has hampered its running game.

The Nuggets had the defensive part right, holding the Clippers
to 36 percent shooting, but weren't able to get their up-tempo game
working much in the middle two quarters. It didn't matter.

Denver worked its half-court offense well, swinging the ball
around the perimeter and passing out of the post to get open shots.
The Nuggets took a 16-point lead in the first quarter and shot 50
percent overall to turn back several Los Angeles runs for its fifth
win in 17 games.

"Solid win. Obviously, a win we needed very badly," Nuggets
coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "We were much better tonight."

The Clippers couldn't get much of anything going after losing to
Golden State the day before. Los Angeles had just one player score
in double figures and couldn't get any closer than six points after
falling behind big early.

The Clippers have lost four straight and 12 of 14.

"We were down by six at one point and then we missed a couple
of chippy shots, we let them get behind us defensively," Clippers
coach Mike Dunleavy said. "A couple of scores, a couple of
miscommunications, a couple of 3s and the next thing you know we
were pretty much out of it."

Los Angeles had Quentin Richardson back after he missed two
games with back spasms, but they still were without Corey Maggette
(knee), Chris Wilcox (Achilles') Marko Jaric (toe).

The Clippers struggled from the start without three of their top
five scorers, fumbling away passes and hitting the side of the
backboard with shots in the first quarter. The Clippers finished
the quarter 5-of-19 with six turnovers.

They weren't any better on defense. Denver shot 12-of-18 and led
31-15.

"I thought we lost the game with a bad start," Dunleavy said.

Denver opened the second quarter with six straight misses and
Predrag Drobnjak hit three straight jumpers at the other end to cut
the lead to 31-21. Earl Boykins and Barry took care of that run
with consecutive 3-pointers midway through that put Denver up
45-29.

Drobnjak kept it going, scoring 16 points in the quarter to help
the Clippers cut the lead to 53-45 by halftime. The reserve
finished with a season-high 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting, but Los
Angeles' starters were a combined 8-for-30.

"Drobnjak gave us a great lift off the bench," Dunleavy said.
"He is the only guy that really had a good game for us."

Anthony didn't shoot it great, but it was still better than the
6-for-22 game he had against the Timberwolves the day before. He
finished 6-for-15, including an emphatic dunk over Chris Kaman that
started a game-clinching 11-1 run to open the third quarter.

"We were in the ninth spot. That was a wake up call for us,"
Anthony said. "So now we could go back to play like we used to
play."

Richardson never got it going. He finished with six points on
1-of-11 shooting and maybe should have waited another game to come
back.

"He probably wasn't ready," Dunleavy said.

Game notes
Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim attended the game after
winning in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament in Denver
over the weekend. Anthony led the Orangemen to the school's first
national championship last year. ... Denver C Marcus Camby played
in his 64th game, a new career high, but sat out the second half
because of a sore groin. ... Barry jumped over a row of fans trying
to save a loose ball in the fourth quarter, then saved a beer after
bumping into a waitress. ... Both coaches came onto the floor
midway through the fourth quarter after Los Angeles' Matt Barnes
grabbed Anthony by the waist and threw him to the floor. Anthony
tried to go after Barnes, who was called for a flagrant foul, but
he was held back by teammates.