DENVER (AP) -- It took a halftime tirade from George Karl to make
sure the Denver Nuggets didn't end the regular season with a
three-game losing streak.
Sparked by their fiery coach, the Nuggets ended their best
regular season in 17 years with a 119-115 victory over the Portland
Trail Blazers on Tuesday night for their 12th consecutive home win.
"That's the sign of a great coach," Denver's DerMarr Johnson
said. "We understand that we need to put together a good half
before we go into the playoffs. We were all down and we came back,
Short-handed and with nothing to play for -- Game 1 of the first
round is Sunday in San Antonio -- Denver came out flat, with plenty
of turnovers and defensive breakdowns to trail by 14 at halftime.
The Nuggets then pulled things together in the third quarter and
ended on a high note after losing their previous two games by a
combined 42 points.
"It was animated, it was a little angry," Karl said of his
speech. "I think they responded pretty well defensively, a pretty
decent defensive team in the second half. The first half, I have no
idea. I was yelling at myself 'Did I teach them how to play defense
Denver finished 32-8 under Karl, giving him an .800 winning
percentage -- the best ever by a coach who took over an NBA team in
Carmelo Anthony had 36 points and 13 rebounds and Earl Boykins
had 24 points -- 18 in the second half -- and 12 assists. Nene added
21 points and 13 rebounds, helping Denver finish 49-33 for its best
season since going 54-28 in 1987-88.
"It all starts now, the playoffs," Anthony said.
Darius Miles had a career-high 47 points -- 10 on five vicious
dunks -- for Portland, which has its most losses (54) since 1973-74
with one game left. The Trail Blazers finished 9-32 on the road,
their worst record away from Portland since they were 5-36 in
"It would have been extra good with a win, but it is the end of
the season," Miles said. "There is really nothing to prove. We
were playing against a playoff team, so I didn't expect to do
something like this."
Denver played without center Marcus Camby (hamstring), power
forward Kenyon Martin (knee) and backup forward Eduardo Najera
(hand), then lost point guard Andre Miller for the second half when
his back stiffened up.
But like they have over the latter part of the season, the
Denver was much more aggressive at both ends after Karl's
speech, using a 17-3 run midway through the third quarter to get
back into it. The Nuggets took their first lead, 85-84, on
DerMarr's Johnson's two free throws with 1:44 left, and Boykins
followed with a nearly impossible, off-balance three-point play.
Neither team led by more than four after that, and it came down
to who could hit the big shots.
Boykins put the Nuggets up 108-106 with a runner in the lane
with just over two minutes left, then Greg Buckner scored inside on
a transition play. Ruben Patterson answered with a dunk to cut it
to two, but Wesley Person then dropped in a 3-pointer from the
corner and Anthony broke out for a layup to make it 115-108 with 33
"Halftime everybody was down," Anthony said. "Coach came in
and was yelling and everything, and then we calmed back down. It
Miles finished the second quarter with 24 points and had 32 in
the half -- one more than his career-high.
"My teammates were getting me the ball," Miles said. "I
didn't even look at the scoreboard until I had 44. I didn't know
how many points I had at the half, and guys were saying I could
score 50. I thought, I'm not going to score 30 more points. I
thought I had like, 20."
Portland F Shareef Abdur-Rahim was ejected early in the
third quarter after receiving his second technical foul for arguing
calls. ... Najera will get his cast off on Friday, but the Nuggets
aren't sure when he'll return. ... Denver's home winning streak is
its longest since 1989.
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