Denver 100, Atlanta 87

ATLANTA, Dec. 12 (AP)-- The Atlanta Hawks couldn't stop the smallest guy on the court.

Earl Boykins - all 5-foot-5 of him - sparked a 17-1 run at the start of the fourth quarter that carried the Denver Nuggets past the Hawks 100-87 on Tuesday night.

While Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points, Boykins led the Nuggets in the final period with nine of his 19 points. He swished a 3-pointer, used his quickness to get free for a couple of pull-up jumpers and blew by the Hawks to make a driving shot with his left hand, banking it high off the backboard.

``Over the past three or four games, I've felt it coming,'' Boykins said.

The Hawks, who lost their third in a row, had no way of containing the lightning-quick guard when it mattered most.

``When he gets going, it's hard to stop him,'' said Josh Smith, who led the Hawks with 21 points. ``He's a scorer at 5-foot-5. You've got to honor his ability to score. He really made some plays in the third and fourth quarters to put his team up.''

Atlanta missed its first 13 shots of the fourth and squandered four other possessions with turnovers. Combined with five straight misses at the end of the third, the Hawks actually endured an 0-for-18 stretch from the field.

``The biggest difference in the game was getting defensive stops,'' Boykins said. ``Once we got the stops, we were able to get the numbers offensively, which led to some easy baskets.''

They sure could have used their leading scorer. Joe Johnson, who is averaging 28.7 points, missed his second straight game with a strained right calf.

``They came with energy on defense,'' Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia said. ``We had no energy in the fourth quarter. I don't know why.''

By the time Solomon Jones scored Atlanta's first field goal of the period on a layup with 5:11 remaining, the Hawks had managed to bounce two shots over the backboard without getting one to fall through the net.

Yakhouba Diawara hit a couple of 3s to help the Nuggets take control. Anthony had just four points in the final period, but did manage a thunderous dunk with just over a minute remaining that drew ``ahhhs'' from what remained of the crowd.

The Hawks returned home after going 2-3 on a West Coast road trip, which included a 98-96 victory at Denver. In that game, Johnson scored 27 points to help Atlanta overcome a 17-point deficit in the final quarter.

Denver wasn't about to let it happen again, handing the Hawks their third straight loss. Since a surprising 4-1 start, Atlanta has lost 11 of 15 to more resemble a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 1999.

``They basically stole a win from us,'' Denver's Marcus Camby said. ``We had to circle the wagons.''

The Hawks jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first 7 minutes and appeared to be in control again when they closed the first half with a 13-2 spurt. Atlanta went to the locker room with a 54-43 lead at the break.

But Denver whittled away at the deficit and went up 71-70 on Boykins' 19-foot jumper with 8 seconds left in the third.

That was just a preview of the Nuggets' domination in the final quarter.

``We couldn't make a shot,'' Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. ``We were living on jump shots instead of trying to drive the basketball. When you're not making shots, you have to try to get to the free-throw line.''

Not that it would have helped much. The Hawks made only 14-of-21 at the foul line.

Notes: The Nuggets dominated the boards, led by Camby with 17 rebounds. Denver finished with a 46-36 edge. ... Atlanta F Marvin Williams, making his second straight start since returning from a broken hand, played 30+ minutes and scored 10 points. ... JR Smith had 17 points for the Nuggets. ... Royal Ivey started in place of Johnson but played less than 15 minutes, scoring only two points. ... Johnson said he would probably be out another week. ... Kenyon Martin is traveling with the Nuggets, even though he'll miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery last month.

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