Nuggets lose cool, Anthony, game against Spurs, 104-85
DENVER — The Denver Nuggets lost their cool and composure in a clunker of a performance.
Along with it may have gone any shot at the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference.
Tim Duncan had 18 points and 10 rebounds last night, leading the San Antonio Spurs to a 104-85 victory over Denver on a night when Carmelo Anthony was ejected for jawing at the officials.
Anthony wasn't the only Nuggets player who couldn't hold his tongue. Team leader Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith also were given technicals for arguing in a fourth quarter that got out of hand for Denver.
"It wasn't their night. They had a tough night," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We all have them and this was theirs."
The loss was a blow to Denver's hopes of securing the No. 2 seed. With Dallas beating Sacramento earlier yesterday, the Nuggets need to win their final two games and then receive some help.
What's more, the loss also dropped them into a tie with Utah for the Northwest Division lead.
"Every loss at this point of the season is costly," said Billups, who led all scorers with 27 points.
The Spurs know that all too well, turning in a forgetful performance of their own the night before against Memphis.
But this helps, winning on a court where very few teams have this season. San Antonio temporarily moved into seventh in the West, avoiding — at least for the moment — a first-round matchup with the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers.
Asked on a scale of 1 to 10 how bad the Spurs wanted to face the Lakers in the opening round, Popovich simply answered, "Minus-5."
For Duncan, it really doesn't matter.
"We'll play who we play. We'll prepare for it the same way," Duncan said. "We've got to refocus."
The loss spoiled the return of Kenyon Martin, who was back in the starting lineup after missing 18 games because of patellar tendinitis in his left knee.
The forward's minutes were closely monitored in his first contest since March 3 because acting coach Adrian Dantley didn't want to exert him too much. Martin finished with six points in nearly 23 minutes.
"Minus the result, it's a positive for the team just to have me back out there," said Martin, whose team had its four-game winning streak halted.
Still, Martin's presence couldn't prevent the Spurs from breaking open a close game early in the fourth quarter. Leading 68-63, San Antonio went on a 13-0 run to seal it.
As the Nuggets began to unravel, they also lost their cool. Smith was given a technical for arguing over a blocking call.
Later, Anthony was ejected after picking up two quick technicals, exiting with 19 points and four rebounds.
MAVERICKS 126, KINGS 108
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Dirk Nowitzki scored 39 points to help Dallas rout Sacramento to move into sole possession of second place in the Western Conference playoff race.
Dallas is one game ahead of Denver with two games remaining for both teams. The Mavericks visit the Clippers tomorrow night and conclude the regular season Wednesday at home against San Antonio.
HAWKS 105, WIZARDS 95
WASHINGTON — Jamal Crawford scored 23 of his 28 points in the second half and Atlanta snapped a six-game road losing streak with a victory over Washington.
Joe Johnson added 20 points as the Hawks remained in third place in the Eastern Conference after sweeping the four-game season series with the Wizards.
BOBCATS 99, PISTONS 95
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Larry Hughes scored 18 points, D.J. Augustin hit a jumper with 1:11 left for a 96-95 lead and Charlotte never trailed again in turning back Detroit.
The Bobcats improved to 31-9 at home and kept their slim hopes alive for overtaking Miami for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and avoiding a first-round matchup with Orlando.
PACERS 115, NETS 102
INDIANAPOLIS — Troy Murphy had 25 points and nine rebounds, and Danny Granger added 22 points to lead streaking Indiana past New Jersey for its fourth straight victory.
Brook Lopez had 20 points, and Yi Jianlian added 18 points and seven rebounds for the Nets (12-68), who had won five of their previous nine games for their best stretch of the season.
76ERS 120, GRIZZLIES 101
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Marreese Speights scored 22 points and Philadelphia matched a franchise record with 14 3-pointers to defeat Memphis and snap a six-game losing streak.
Jason Kapono and Andre Iguodala added 15 apiece, Jodie Meeks had 14, and Willie Green added 12 for Philadelphia, which hit 14 of 26 from 3-point range.
CELTICS 105, BUCKS 90
MILWAUKEE — Paul Pierce scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half and Boston, playing without Kevin Garnett, who was given the night off, beat Milwaukee.
After a rough-and-tumble game in Milwaukee last month, this one featured more pushing and shoving late and could be a sign of things to come in a first-round matchup in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
CLIPPERS 107, WARRIORS 104
LOS ANGELES — Chris Kaman had 27 points and 10 rebounds, and Steve Nowak hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:46 to play, lifting Los Angeles over Golden State to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Baron Davis had 21 points, five rebounds and five assists for Los Angeles before leaving early in the third quarter with a sprained right wrist.