Jazz Top Nuggets to Stay in Playoff Hunt
Utah 115, Denver 104
DENVER, March 29 (Ticker) -- Andrei Kirilenko and the Utah Jazz looked like they still had something to play for, while the Denver Nuggets seemed to already be thinking about the playoffs.
Kirilenko had 21 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks as the Jazz had six scorers in double figures en route to a 115-104 over the Nuggets.
"We are still in the race," Okur said. "We did a great job tonight. We have chance if we keep it up, night in and night out."
"Anything can happen in this business," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We're competing and we're going to fight through to the end."
Denver (40-32) holds a 5 1/2-game lead over Utah in the Northwest Division. Seeking their third straight postseason berth, the Nuggets have a magic number of six to clinch the third seed in the West.
"This game really hurts because we've been playing good basketball lately," Denver guard Andre Miller said. "I don't think we were overconfident, they just played much better defense than us."
The Jazz shot a blistering 63 percent (22-of-35) from the field in the first half and led by as many as 16 points in the third period. But the Nuggets bridged the last two quarters with a 12-2 run, drawing within 85-80 on a pair of free throws by Miller with 11:09 remaining.
However, Carlos Boozer, Kirilenko and Jarron Collins each hit layups in the over the next 90 seconds to rebuild the lead to 93-84.
"Seventy-five percent of our baskets were layups tonight," Kirilenko said. "We did a good job of helping each other all night. We had a good rotation going. We didn't rush and just kept executing on every possession."
The Nuggets staged another rally, cutting the deficit to 108-101 on Carmelo Anthony's basket with 2:20 to play. Okur missed a 3-pointer on the other end, but Kirilenko blocked Anthony's layup with 1:50 left and rookie Deron Williams hit two free throws 25 seconds later.
"We fought hard to get close in the second half," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "We just dug ourselves such a big hole, we couldn't get out."
Kirilenko added four more points down the stretch to seal the victory.
Boozer and Collins scored 15 points apiece and Williams chipped in 12 for Utah, which scored 50 points in the paint and sank 33-of-41 free throws.
"We have a different team than we've had all year," Sloan said. "Boozer changes things just being in the game. It gives everyone more freedom with him out there."
Anthony scored 31 points, Miller had 19 and 12 assists and Ruben Patterson scored 18 for the Nuggets, who played without starting center Marcus Camby (back) and had a five-game home winning streak snapped.
"You have to give them credit, they played really well," Patterson said. "Hopefully, we get Camby back on Friday for the Timberwolves. We sure could've used him to get some rebounds tonight."