DENVER (AP) -- For most of the game, it looked as though there
was only one, not two, playoff teams on the court.
When the night was over, that proved to be exactly the case.
With Marcus Camby ailing, Nene finished with 14 points and 15
rebounds Friday night to help the Denver Nuggets win their 10th
straight game, a 111-102 victory over Memphis that kept the
Grizzlies from clinching the West's final playoff spot.
The victory helped the Nuggets (48-31) match the third-longest
winning streak in franchise history and pushed them into a tie with
the Rockets for sixth place, with a game at Houston on Saturday
Memphis, meanwhile, fell behind by 25 early in losing its third
straight. That, plus Minnesota's 100-84 win over Utah, kept
Memphis' magic number at one.
"We got beat tonight and we just have to come out and play hard
tomorrow and try to get that one game," Brian Cardinal said.
"We'll see what happens. We are a playoff team, we just need to
come out and prove it."
The Grizzlies play at San Antonio on Saturday.
Camby had seven points, eight rebounds and six blocks but missed
most of the second half after straining his right hamstring while
trying to chase down Bonzi Wells on a breakaway. Coach George Karl
said Camby's status for Saturday will be determined at gametime.
Without Camby dominating on defense, Memphis trimmed its deficit
to as few as six points early in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets,
who improved to a staggering 31-6 under Karl, are basically working
on style points at this point, and their recent mini-trend of
letting large leads dwindle is the biggest complaint the coach has.
"If you get a 15-point lead and let a team back in a playoff
situation, it could be devastating," Karl said. "I probably want
playoff basketball now. They gave me playoff basketball, but not as
much as I want."
Nene, the backup power forward, gave Karl plenty at the end.
He took a sweet pass from Earl Boykins for a layup, made two
free throws and had a nice tip-in as part of a 13-6 run that helped
Denver push a six-point lead to 101-86 with 5 minutes left.
He said it was his best game since returning March 20 after
missing 13 games with a knee injury.
"My legs are a little tired, but it's all coming back," the
2002 first-round draft pick said.
Memphis didn't seriously threaten after Nene's flurry, but the
Grizzlies didn't quit, either. Things got testy at the 3-minute
mark when Anthony, upset at a hard foul by Cardinal, stuck a finger
in Cardinal's face. The pair had to be separated by the officials.
Lorenzen Wright had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies,
who lost all four meetings with the Nuggets this season. Mike
Miller led Memphis with 17 points. Pau Gasol had six points and
three rebounds and sat the last quarter and a half -- coach Mike
Denver shot 62 percent to push the lead to 25 in the second
quarter, and the Grizzlies hardly looked like playoff contenders.
"It was just a matter of if we would come back in the second
half and show the character of our team and play basketball the way
I know we are capable of playing," Fratello said.
They did, but the deficit proved too much to overcome.
Martin made a nice pass to Eduardo Najera, who converted for a
three-point play, then Martin followed with an eight-foot hook shot
to start the run that put the game away.
Memphis still needs only a win or a Minnesota loss to clinch the
last playoff spot, but that's no given. The Grizzlies finish with a
home-and-home series against the Spurs and a home game with Dallas,
while the T'Wolves finish with Seattle, New Orleans and the Spurs.
Denver, meanwhile, can finish no worse than seventh, but has a
realistic chance at catching Sacramento for the fifth spot. Asked
how he felt about his position, Karl replied, simply, "Let's go to
Former University of Utah coach Rick Majerus was on hand as
a consultant to George Karl. ... The Nuggets' last 10-game winning
streak came in 1988, when Doug Moe was coach. Moe is now Karl's
assistant and the Nuggets are 24-2 since he came to the bench, with
the only two losses coming to Phoenix. ... The Grizzlies haven't
won in Denver since Nov. 18, 1997.