DENVER (AP) -- Darting through the lane, dipping past defenders,
Earl Boykins was a blur on the hardwood.
This performance came on the heels of Tuesday's win over Seattle
in which the 5-foot-5 guard set a league record with 15 points in
overtime. It never got that close this time around.
"I'm surprised every time he steps out on the court," Nuggets
forward Kenyon Martin said. "A guy that size. The things he can
do. He's got the heart of a lion. It just shows that when your
heart's that big and you care that much about playing the game,
good things will happen to you."
Denver snapped Memphis' four-game winning streak and gave
interim coach Michael Cooper the first winning streak of his own
since taking over the team on Dec. 31. The Nuggets, who have
struggled all season, pulled within four games of Memphis for
eighth place in the Western Conference -- and the last playoff spot
-- with the midpoint of the season close at hand.
Lorenzen Wright scored 17 points and former Nugget James Posey
had 15 on five 3-pointers for the Grizzlies, who lost for just the
second time in 12 games and only the eighth time in the 25 games
since Mike Fratello took over for Hubie Brown as coach.
Memphis played just hours after the sudden death of play-by-play
voice Don Poier, 53, who had been calling games for the franchise
since its conception in Vancouver in 1995.
"I can't say that the news today affected us," Fratello said.
"We had a job to do tonight. We have to sharpen our play."
Like Boykins, Marcus Camby had a second-consecutive big game,
finishing with 18 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots after a
25-point, 24-rebound night against the Sonics. That helped the
Nuggets win easily without Carmelo Anthony, who sat out after
hurting his right ankle Tuesday.
Since Anthony went out in the third quarter of that game, the
Nuggets have played better, cutting and moving on offense, pushing
the ball when they can and playing more aggressively everywhere on
the court. The results on this night were telling: Denver shot 49
percent and outrebounded Memphis 49-24.
A lot of the Denver rebounds resulted in a quick outlet pass to
Boykins or Andre Miller, who pushed the pace and helped the Nuggets
find easy shots. Miller finished with 14 points and six assists.
"We want to do that all the time," Cooper said of the
rebound-and-run method. "Now, they see we're successful when the
ball is in Earl's and Andre's hands. Those guys are capable and
willing to pass the basketball."
Fittingly, though, it was a shot by Boykins that essentially
sealed this game. Pounding the dribble, Boykins took one big step
into the lane, got his defender back on his heels, then stepped
back himself for a fadeaway 16-foot jumper. It gave Denver an 87-74
lead with 3:54 left and marked the start of garbage time.
"I feel I shouldn't miss an open shot and I shouldn't turn over
the ball," Boykins said. "Slowly but surely, Coop is changing our
offense. We're running different plays each game and that makes it
tough to scout us."
Martin returned from missing a game with strep throat and had 13
points and eight rebounds. Martin reared back as if to punch Pao
Gasol (eight points, four rebounds) after a hard foul early in the
fourth quarter, but the two didn't come to blows and it was nothing
like the scene last Friday night when Nene got into a fight with
Michael Olowokandi of the Timberwolves.
"K-Mart is a lot like Shaq in that people want to foul him
because they know he's a questionable free-throw shooter," Cooper
said. "His reaction was great. He knows he's going to get the hard
fouls. He bites the bullet and walks away from it."
Nene missed his third game of a four-game suspension due to the
^Notes:@ The Nuggets won consecutive games for the first time
since Dec. 8 and 10 against Washington and Toronto. ... Memphis
failed in its quest to set a franchise record with its fifth
straight road win. ... The Grizzlies haven't won in Denver since
Nov. 18, 1997.
After staving off elimination in the game before, the Heat seized control of this one from the get-go and will move on in the East playoffs.
While the Hornets do not have a series victory to show for their efforts, the work Steve Clifford did to get Charlotte to this point is impressive.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr explains how not having Steph Curry for most of their series against Houston has carried over to this round against Portland. Kerr also examines how Draymond Green has been able to adjust and help the team.