Nuggets Top Sonics in Quest for Division Title
Denver 117, Seattle 104
DENVER, March 24 (Ticker) -- Carmelo Anthony continued his impressive offense to keep the Denver Nuggets on pace for a division title.
Anthony scored 31 points, his sixth 30-point effort in seven games, as the Nuggets rolled to their ninth win in 11 games, a 117-104 triumph over the Seattle SuperSonics.
Denver (40-30) moved 10 games above .500 for the first time this season and swelled its lead in the Northwest Division to seven games over idle Utah (32-36). Seattle (27-41) won the division last season.
"We just got to wait and see what happens," Anthony said. "(There are) 12, 13 more games left. Let's get these games out of the way first."
While Anthony has been at the forefront of Denver's upswing, reserve Reggie Evans was the key in the first half, when the former Sonics scored 16 of his career-high 22 points.
"It wasn't weird. I just approached it like practice," Evans said. "I was cool, calm and collected. It was all just fun to me, that's about it."
"He might have been MVP of the game. He definitely was in the first half," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "He played loosey-goosey basketball and kept us going. He really gave us a lift."
Despite Evans' efforts, the Sonics remained close throughout the first half and opening stages of the third quarter. The game was knotted, 59-59, when the Nuggets took the lead for good with a 17-4 burst.
"After the first half, I thought we were in great shape," Seattle guard Ray Allen said. "We were only down two, and we should have actually been up. We were in the game. I just think everyone was one step behind."
Karl thought the Nuggets' problems in the first half may have resulted in their looking ahead to Saturday's contest at Pacific Division-leading Phoenix.
"Maybe we were looking forward," he said. "We didn't play very good defense in the first half, but I can't complain about our D in the second (half)."
Sonics coach Bob Hill was furious at his team for not taking advantage of Denver's lack of focus.
"We didn't play. None of us," he said. "That was embarrassing. They played their bench, because they play Phoenix tomorrow. They rested their front line guys. Our front line guys couldn't compete with their bench. There is no excuse for our performance. It's my fault."
Anthony scored seven points during the spurt, capping it with a jumper at the 4:50 mark to make it 76-63.
Seattle closed to 91-84 on a 3-pointer by Allen - the team's first of the game - with just over 10 minutes to go.
But Johnson, who scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, made back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Sonics got no closer than eight points thereafter.
Luke Ridnour collected 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists and reserve Robert Swift had career highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Sonics, who made just 4-of-24 3-pointers.
Allen scored just 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting, including 1-of-8 from the arc.
"Tonight I was just off," Allen said. "I can't make any excuse. I just didn't make shots."