Boykins scores 12 of his 22 in the fourth; Melo adds 21

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- George Karl has made an instant impact with
the rejuvenated Denver Nuggets, and he's done it with the help of a
5-foot-5 point guard the Los Angeles Clippers didn't want anymore.

Earl Boykins scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter as
the Nuggets continued a belated playoff push with their sixth
straight victory, beating the Clippers 105-89 on Saturday night.

Boykins, who went undrafted, played for five NBA teams --
including the Clippers -- before landing in Denver last season. Now,
the short player is making those teams look shortsighted.

"I'm not seeing many teams controlling him," Karl said. "We
haven't really been hurt by him being small. It's a new experience
for me because I've never been an advocate of little guards -- but
in the second half, he was in total control of that game. He was
doing whatever he wanted to do."

Boykins has scored in double figures in 20 of his last 23 games
and has four 20-point efforts during that stretch. On Jan. 18 at
Seattle, he set an NBA record for points in an overtime period with

"I'm enjoying my time in Denver," Boykins said. "They're
allowing me to go out and just play. They're giving me minutes and
giving me an opportunity to prove that I was a better point guard
than they thought I was here."

Carmelo Anthony had 21 points for the Nuggets, who equaled their
longest winning streak since a seven-game stretch from Nov. 18-Dec.
2, 1989. They improved to 30-29 and went over .500 for the first
time since Dec. 21 (13-12).

The Nuggets have made up 6½ games on the Lakers to pull even
with them for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth
-- 15½ games behind first-place San Antonio.

"Right now we're playing the best basketball we've played all
year," Boykins said. "We have guys who are playing hard and
playing together, we have a lot of confidence and we're tough to
beat right now.

"The biggest thing (Karl has) brought is mental toughness. We
believe that we can win every game and he just builds confidence."

After ending an eight-year playoff drought last season, the
Nuggets got off to a 13-9 start despite losing shooting guard
Voshon Lenard on opening night with a torn left Achilles' tendon.
But they lost 11 of their next 12 games and have been clawing back
into playoff contention ever since.

Jeff Bzdelik was fired on Dec. 28 with a 13-15 record and
replaced by assistant Michael Cooper on an interim basis. The team
was 4-10 under Cooper, but is 13-4 since Karl took over on Jan. 27.

"I liked this team," Karl said. "When I watched them on film
and on TV, it reminded me of my Seattle teams. I mean, it was great
being in Milwaukee and coaching offense, but it's a lot more
enjoyable for me to coach defense. And that's kind of what we're
doing here."

Bobby Simmons led Los Angeles with 18 points, and Elton Brand
had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Corey Maggette, who had 33 points
against the Nuggets in a 102-98 victory on Jan. 3, was held to 10
points on 3-for-14 shooting by a defense that has held its last
three opponents under 90 points.

With Kenyon Martin missing his second straight game because of
tendinitis in his left knee, Denver used its 18th different
starting lineup. Marcus Camby had 14 points and 12 rebounds,
helping end the Clippers' seven-game home winning streak. Wesley
Person, signed by the Nuggets on Thursday after getting released by
Miami, scored 10 points.

Trailing by 13 at halftime, Los Angeles would get no closer than
nine the rest of the way.

The Clippers did not make a field goal in the fourth quarter
until Kenny Anderson hit a short jumper with 7:50 to play. The
Nuggets had opened the period with a 10-1 spurt that increased the
margin to 91-71.

Bryon Russell scored all of his 11 points during a two-minute
span of the second quarter, making three 3-point shots and a pair
of free throws to help Denver build a 59-46 halftime lead. Russell,
the fifth player off the Nuggets' bench, entered the game after
starter Francisco Elson picked up his third foul with 10:50 left in
the half.

"They left me open," Russell said. "Wesley Person hit a
couple of 3s before that, and I guess they decided to concentrate
on him."

Camby, who blocked seven shots in Thursday's 96-87 victory at
Indiana, had three blocks in the first quarter against the

"Camby's a shot blocker, and he's proven that every single year
he's been in the league," Brand said. "He blocked some shots
early and set a tone for the game."

Game notes
Denver's winning streak has coincided with Karl's insertion
of DerMarr Johnson into the starting lineup. ... Clippers No. 1
draft pick Shaun Livingston will decide in a couple of weeks
whether to undergo season-ending surgery on his right shoulder to
repair cartilage damage. ... The Clippers are four games back and
have to jump over three teams, including Minnesota, to make the
postseason for the first time since 1997.


On the Net:

Denver Nuggets: http://www.nba.com/nuggets

Los Angeles Clippers: http://www.nba.com/clippers

National Basketball Association: http://www.nba.com


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