NBA: Anthony, Smith lead Nuggets past Jazz, 126-113
AP Sports Writer
DENVER — Carmelo Anthony scored a playoff career-high 42 points and J.R. Smith's fourth-quarter flurry of 3-pointers helped the Denver Nuggets beat the Utah Jazz 126-113 on Saturday night in Game 1 of the playoff series.
Anthony, whose previous playoff high was 41 points against Dallas in the second round last year, benefited from the absence of Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who re-injured his strained left calf in practice Thursday and won't play in the series.
Although Carlos Boozer (rib) returned to Utah's lineup and scored 19 points, the Jazz lost center Mehmet Okur, who aggravated his left Achilles' tendon injury in the first half, and C.J. Miles also missed some time because of nausea after colliding with Chauncey Billups in the second half.
Game 2 is Monday night in Denver.
Miles returned to start the fourth quarter but quickly went to the bench with five fouls. He scored 17 points but none after his free throws gave the Jazz a 54-53 lead with 40 seconds left in the first half.
Kenyon Martin pulled down 12 rebounds in 34 minutes — the most he's played since missing 18 games because of a balky left knee during the stretch run when coach George Karl was undergoing throat cancer treatment.
This time, Nuggets acting coach Adrian Dantley didn't mind Smith's flurry of fourth-quarter 3-point attempts.
Smith, who drew Dantley's ire for firing up four 3-pointers in the final two minutes of a blowout win over Memphis in the regular season home finale, sank three straight 3s to break open a 90-90 game and give Denver a 99-93 lead.
A fourth shot hit the front of the iron, but Smith grabbed the long rebound himself and sliced through the lane for a finger-roll bucket that put the Nuggets ahead 101-93.
Smith, who finished with 20 points, sank another 3 to make it 111-100 and all but bury the Jazz.
The Nuggets took an 88-86 lead into the fourth quarter after Anthony sank a long 3-pointer following a big block by Chris Andersen on Deron Williams.
Then, Smith took over, giving Dantley, the Hall of Fame forward, a win in his postseason coaching debut.
"I went over to George's house yesterday. He said, 'Just go out and have fun.' That was it," Dantley said before tip-off. "No strategy for the team — set a couple of plays, but that was it."
Karl recently completed his six-week treatment of radiation and chemotherapy and hopes to return to the bench later in the playoffs if the Nuggets can advance.
That puts the pressure squarely on Dantley, and he's talked about how if he loses, the blame's on him and if he wins, the credit goes to Karl because he's just serving as the substitute teacher delivering the head coach's lesson plans.
A deep run in the playoffs, however, could send Dantley's coaching stock soaring.
All he was worried about on this night was beating his old mentor, Jerry Sloan.
"I'm a rookie," Dantley said. "I'm going against somebody that's coached 20 years of playoff basketball."
Sloan said it was strange not to see Karl leaning on the scorer's table, ranting at the referees or drawing up plays during timeouts.
"It makes you realize basketball's really not that important," Sloan said. "... We love basketball, everybody gets excited about it but it really doesn't matter in the scheme of things. I just wish him well and hope things go well for him."
Dantley suggested that sharing the ball, along with getting Nene more shots, was paramount in the postseason, and his message on the grease board in the locker room was clear: "Regular season 44-7 (with) 20 or more assists."
They managed 29 assists Saturday night, eight by Billups and six more by rookie Ty Lawson.