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Denver is 28-6 under Karl

DENVER (AP) -- During the All-Star break, Nuggets coach George
Karl set a goal of winning 20 games to close out the season.

Now that the Nuggets have reached that mark, Karl has his sights
on a new target.

"I think we should re-establish the goal of trying to reach 50
wins," Karl said. "I think a 50-win season would be an incredible
season, and it's feasible."

It certainly should be the way the Nuggets have been playing.

Denver moved a step closer to reaching the playoffs for the
second straight season, beating the Seattle SuperSonics 121-105
Saturday night for their seventh straight win.

Carmelo Anthony had 24 points, Earl Boykins added 23, and Andre
Miller had 14 points and a season-high 17 assists to help the
Nuggets shoot 57 percent. Denver has won 21 of 23 games for the
franchise's best stretch since going 27-2 in 1974, when it was
still in the ABA, and has its most wins (45) since going 54-28 in

The Nuggets can thank Karl for the run.

Uninspired and ineffective under Jeff Bzdelik and Michael
Cooper, the Nuggets have responded to Karl's my-way-or-else
approach, knowing they have to play hard or they'll end up

Denver is 28-6, including 15-1 at home, since Karl took over as
coach Jan. 28, moving from 11th in the Western Conference to
seventh, with a chance to catch Houston for sixth.

The win over Seattle, combined with Minnesota's loss to Atlanta,
means the Nuggets need one win or another Timberwolves' loss to
clinch consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since

"We have confidence. George has put a lot of confidence in
us," said Anthony, who was 8-for-17 from field. "He motivates us
and makes us play the game the way it should be played."

Ray Allen had 32 points and Ronald Murray 20 for Seattle, which
has lost four straight -- all with a chance to clinch its first
division title since 1998, when Karl was still coach.

Of course, injuries have had something to do with it

All-Star forward Rashard Lewis missed his sixth straight game
(foot), forward Vladimir Radmanovic (leg) sat out his 12th straight
(leg) and guard Antonio Daniels (knee) missed his second straight.
On top of that, Danny Fortson didn't make the trip because of a
sore shoulder.

That left the Sonics with just nine players in uniform and not
much chance to keep up with the revved-up Nuggets.

"I don't know what it is, but something good is going to come
out of the injuries," said Allen, who hit five 3-pointers. "A lot
of guys have to step up and provide valuable minutes for us and
just be strong."

Denver used its depth advantage early.

Pushing the pace at every chance, Denver had a 12-point lead in
the first 6 minutes and continued to pour it on. The Nuggets were
up 41-25 in the first quarter after hitting 14-of-19 shots, and had
the lead at 22 points 3 minutes into the second.

It was so out of hand by midway through the quarter that Karl
spent about a minute yelling out instructions while holding a
little girl, who was part of a skit during a timeout.

"I think getting off to that great start gave us the confidence
to win the game," Karl said.

It still wasn't as easy as it should have been.

Using a zone defense to slow the game, Seattle whittled the lead
to 68-54 by halftime, then got it to 75-67 midway through the third
quarter. The Sonics were still down just 97-88 after Murray beat
the buzzer with a 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt, but
couldn't get any closer, in part because of foul trouble.

Seattle had six players with at least four fouls and Allen had
to go out with 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter after getting
his fifth foul -- and a technical to go with it. The Nuggets took
advantage with an 8-0 run to go up 110-92 and pulled away from
there, hitting 9-of-12 free throws in the final quarter.

"The guys came out in the second half fired up, they didn't
like how they were playing in the first half," Sonics coach Nate
McMillan said. "We tried to make it a game, but it's hard to make
it a game when a team is going to the free throw line as much as
they did tonight."

Game notes
Nuggets backup forward Eduardo Najera didn't play because
of the flu. ... An ovation rang out midway through the second
quarter when the scoreboard showed highlights from Denver
University's second straight NCAA hockey title earlier Saturday.


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