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Anthony's 42 give Nuggets 1-0 series lead

By Michael Kelly, for
Posted Sunday April 18, 2010 2:56AM

DENVER ( exclusive) -- The shots kept falling for Carmelo Anthony, and the Jazz just kept falling.

Anthony scored a playoff career-high 42 points in the Nuggets' 126-113 win over Utah in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series Saturday night, a series that looks gloomy for Utah.

The Jazz are only down 1-0 in the series but they face a deeper hole with the loss of center Mehmet Okur. Okur suffered a left Achilles injury when he went down on a drive with 8:04 left in the second period and had to be helped from the floor.

"I was driving to the basket and I slipped," Okur said. "Then I felt pain because all my weight was on my left side because I was driving right. Then I felt something pop."

He is scheduled to have an MRI done on the heel Sunday at 10 a.m. but his teammates seemed resigned to trying to beat the Nuggets without him.

"We need him out there but what can you do about injuries? You've just got to keep playing," guard Deron Williams said. "It's been the story of our team the last couple of season. Injuries happen to every team, they just seem to happen to us at the wrong time."

If Okur is out, he will join Andrei Kirilenko (strained calf) on the sidelines, depriving Utah of two of its best frontline players. It will be a tough task, especially if Anthony keeps playing like he did Saturday.

"I told myself in order for us succeed in the playoffs, it's going to come down to me," Anthony said. "Me being a leader of this team, I've got to set the tone out there."

The third leading scorer in the NBA this year carved up the Jazz, hitting 18 of 25 shots against a team that prides itself on defense. But no matter what Utah did, stopping Anthony was nearly impossible.

"There was no stopping him," said Williams, who led the Jazz with 26 points and 11 assists. "You could say double him but he really wasn't taking any dribbles, he was just shooting over us. We tried to zone him a little bit but tonight it just didn't work. It was one of those nights when a great player steps up and plays great."

Anthony had help. Five other Denver players scored in double figures, led by J.R. Smith. Smith was quiet for the first three quarters before catching fire in the fourth when he scored 18 of his 20 points.

Smith hit three 3-pointers in the first 2:49 of the fourth to turn a tie game into a 99-92 lead for Denver. When he did finally miss from long range, he grabbed the rebound and hit a layup over two Utah players to increase Denver's lead to eight.

The Jazz closed within four soon after, but the Nuggets kept hitting shots. Smith's fourth 3-pointer made it 111-100, and later he stole a Williams pass and fed Anthony for a game-clinching layup with 3:13 left.

"He really had a great finish," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said of Smith. "He has a great ability to shoot the ball. We were trying to hang on but those guys really made it tough for us."

About the only good news for Utah was the play of Carlos Boozer, who had 19 points and played 41 minutes. Boozer was questionable with an oblique strain but he was effective most of the night.

"I felt good," Boozer said. "For the most part I didn't think about it."

Boozer's play, and C.J. Miles' 17 points in the first half, kept the Jazz in the game. They survived Denver's 9-2 run to start the second half, scoring eight straight to tie it at 66. The Jazz got the lead back on two Williams free throws with 4:45 left in the third.

Utah was able to stay in the game despite losing another player for most of the second half. Miles left the game after colliding with guard Chauncey Billups early in the third quarter.

"I just couldn't breathe. I was trying to catch my breath," Miles said. "I got to the bench and couldn't slow it down, I got real nauseous, I couldn't breathe so I came (to the locker room) to catch my breath."

He played just 6:34 in the second half and was rendered ineffective with foul trouble.

The Jazz held the lead until Anthony hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in the third to give the Nuggets an 88-86 lead heading into the fourth.

The win was acting head coach Adrian Dantley's first playoff victory, and there could be more if the Jazz keep losing players to injury.

"They're undermanned a little bit but that's the NBA," Dantley said. "I know Jerry Sloan. He's not going to let them just quit. We have to go out and win Game 2."

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