SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Spending the last two months below .500
didn't quite knock the Utah Jazz out of playoff contention.
The Jazz won their fourth straight game Wednesday, beating a
diluted version of the Denver Nuggets 104-83 and continuing their
late push for the final playoff spot. It's still a longshot for the
Jazz, who would need the Kings or Lakers to falter in the last week
of the season.
"Four more games. We still have a chance, so let's fight,"
Utah's Andrei Kirilenko said.
Utah had an advantage from the start. The Nuggets, who clinched
the Northwest Division on Monday night, dressed only nine players
and one of them was Marcus Camby, who didn't leave the bench as he
rested his back.
Kenyon Martin (knee) missed his third straight game and the
eight Nuggets who did play wilted in the fourth quarter as the Jazz
pulled away with a 16-2 run.
"It's unfortunate time is running out, but we may get some
help," said Utah's Carlos Boozer, who scored 25 points and pulled
down 10 of his 13 rebounds in the second half.
Boozer was 11-for-19 from the floor, taking advantage of the
short-handed Nuggets with layups and dunks all game. Utah's Deron
Williams finished with 14 points and nine assists, including three
of Utah's nine in the fourth quarter.
"That was definitely one of our best quarters, especially
passing the ball," Williams said. "We shared the ball well, made
the extra pass. Guys got easy shots and they just really couldn't
Mehmet Okur had 24 points and 10 rebounds. Kirilenko scored 12
of his 14 points in the second half and added seven assists for the
Jazz, who hadn't been at .500 since they were 25-25.
Utah (39-39) got within 1½ games of Sacramento for the final
playoff spot, although the Kings hold the tiebreaker over the Jazz.
Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 18 points, but didn't score in
the fourth period as the Nuggets were outscored 33-20.
"We just want to have momentum before the playoffs start,"
Denver's Ruben Patterson said. "We've just got to have everybody
here. Kenyon and Marcus, because they dominated us tonight."
The Jazz outrebounded the Nuggets 47-33 and outscored Denver
58-38 in the paint while winning their fourth in a row, although
they let a 13-point lead fall to two in the third quarter before
Matt Harpring scored 13 as all five Utah starters finished in
Denver, which is already guaranteed the No. 3 seed in the
Western Conference as the division champion, seemed to lose
interest early in the fourth quarter. The Jazz, who can't afford to
lose if they want to make the playoffs, pulled away with a 16-2 run
early in the final period.
Okur scored six during the run, Devin Brown scored four,
outracing Anthony to the basket for a layup, and Kirilenko capped
it off with a dunk on a pass from Okur, who was fed by Williams to
start the play.
"They outhustled us," Anthony said. "They outworked us."
The Nuggets' three inactive spots were already full and
Eduardo Najera (broken foot) didn't travel with the team. Without
Camby and Martin, only eight Nuggets got in the game. ... Miller
announced Tuesday a $500,000 donation to the University of Utah,
his alma mater. ... Anthony joked with referee Bob Delaney that he
was watching too close when Delaney called Anthony for stepping out
of bounds. ... Utah improved to 21-19 at home. The Jazz hadn't been
at .500 since beating Minnesota on Feb. 10.