6:00 PM ET, March 3, 2005
Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
DENVER (AP) -- Kenyon Martin and Nene sat on the bench in street clothes, leaving Denver a huge hole in its front line.
It didn't matter the way Marcus Camby played.
Martin didn't play because of a sore knee and Nene has been on the injured list since Feb. 14 with a sprained knee, leaving the Nuggets without two of their top three post players. Knowing he needed to pick up the slack, Camby played like he was on a pogo stick, jumping up for blocks, tip-ins and rebounds.
The kind of player whose contributions don't normally show up in the boxscore, Camby sure did this time: 17 points, 22 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocked shots.
"Marcus Camby is incredible. What a game he had tonight," Nuggets coach George Karl said.
He wasn't the only one.
Unselfish on offense -- 27 assists on 31 field goals -- and scrappy on defense, the Nuggets improved to 12-4 since Karl took over on Jan. 27 and moved into a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Denver has won seven straight at home -- 6-0 under Karl -- and has its longest win streak since taking five in a row in December 2003, reaching .500 (29-29) for the first time since Dec. 22.
"We've been very fortunate with the luck," Karl said. "We can't look at the scoreboard. We're going to have to win 43 to 44 games. If we put that up I think we can be proud of putting it up. And if somebody beats us we'll probably have to shake their hands and say congratulations."
Indiana was ragged on offense, porous on defense and lost its best player late in the second quarter, when All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal sprained his right shoulder on a drive to the basket.
O'Neal was injured with 4½ minutes left when his right arm was knocked back by Denver's Francisco Elson. O'Neal stayed in the game after a timeout and, cradling his right arm by his side, made two free throws left-handed -- his off hand. He went to the locker room with his arm dangling after a quick Pacers' foul.
X-rays were negative, but O'Neal was still in pain at halftime and said the trainer had to pop his shoulder back in place -- not exactly what the Pacers wanted to hear in what has already been a long, difficult season.
"He's our go-to guy and our All-Star, he's one of the most dominant players in the league and anytime you lose that out of your lineup you are going to have to show up," Indiana guard Fred Jones said. "It's just another thing for us, we will have to move on. It really can't bring us down as far as we've been this year."
Indiana struggled early without guard Jamaal Tinsley, who missed his fourth straight game with a bruised foot, and it only got worse when O'Neal went out.
The Pacers trailed by as much as 17 in the first half and had a horrible time handling the ball, dribbling off their legs and sending passes straight into the Nuggets' hands or out of bounds. Indiana had 16 turnovers -- 12 in the first half -- and shot just 34 percent.
The Pacers made a run midway through the fourth quarter to cut Denver's lead to seven, but never got closer to lose their third straight since a five-game winning streak. At 28-29, Indiana is clinging to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with four of its next five games on the road.
Stephen Jackson led the Pacers with 16 points.
"We didn't play well," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "I think that was pretty obvious. We fought back in the second half and got it to six or seven to give ourselves a chance, but you have to be perfect from that point on."
It didn't help that Indiana couldn't stop Anthony or Camby.
Anthony has played more aggressively and made better decisions under Karl, and it continued against the Pacers. Going hard to the rim and fighting hard in the post, 'Melo seems to have regained the explosiveness he lost with a serious of ankle injuries early in the year, finishing 7-for-14 and hit 14 of 16 free throws.
Camby was as active as he's been all season, charging in for rebounds, swooping in for blocks and dropping in medium-range jumpers. He even did a little trash talking and had a nice, one-armed takedown of Indiana's Scot Pollard.
"There was a shortage of bigs tonight, we didn't have Kenyon nor Nene, so I was ready to go," Camby said.
Reggie Miller had perhaps the most forgettable night for Indiana in what will likely be his final game in Denver.
He was honored before the game and received a $5,000 check for his foundation from Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, but that was about the only highlight. Miller, who will retire at the end of the season, had plenty of open looks, but finished 2-of-13 for eight points, missing all six of his 3-point attempts.
Pacers C David Harrison, who attended nearby Colorado, left 12 tickets for family and friends. He had one point. ... Denver swept the season series against Indiana for the first time since 1985-86. ... The Nuggets are 11-1 at home against the Eastern Conference.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||28-82 (.341)||31-72 (.431)|
|3PM-3PA||4-27 (.148)||4-7 (.571)|
|FTM-FTA||27-36 (.750)||30-37 (.811)|
|Fast Break Points||19||18|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||25 (1/0)||30 (0/0)|