Denver 113, Sacramento 101

SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 11 (AP) -- Before the game, Allen Iverson vowed to help end Denver's league-worst losing streak in Sacramento. After taking care of that key matter, A.I. promised to appeal what he considers the most absurd technical of his career.

Iverson had 24 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals to spoil Ron Artest's return to the Kings' lineup, and the Nuggets snapped a 20-game losing streak in Arco Arena with a 113-101 victory Sunday.

Iverson picked up three fouls and a technical during a crazy 17-second span midway through the first quarter.

After the second foul, he quickly signaled to coach George Karl he was fine to stay in the game. Not for long, though.

Following his third foul at the 6:25 mark, he was whistled for a technical while running toward the bench clearly frustrated. Iverson came back out to argue with official Ron Garretson during the ensuing timeout before taking a seat.

"I just said, 'Oh' and turned around and ran to the bench. How could I get a technical for something like that?'' said Iverson, insisting he knows in his "heart'' he wasn't in the wrong. "I didn't try to show him up. Out of all the techs I've got, I probably deserved every last one except that one right there. ... It was strange. I don't think that ever happened to me in my whole career - I never got three fouls in the beginning of the game.''

Carmelo Anthony added 29 points and six rebounds and Marcus Camby had 16 points, 10 boards and six assists as the Nuggets ended a five-game skid to the Kings and pulled off a key win in the playoff chase.

Denver hadn't beaten the Kings in Sacramento since Jan. 7, 1997 - the longest active losing streak in the league.

"That's a long time,'' Karl said. "It's a big win for us, for our confidence to get playing better. Hopefully we will build on the continuity and confidence we had today.''

Artest had 17 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists in his return following his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence. Mike Bibby scored 34 points, but Sacramento failed to gain ground on the Clippers in the standings. Los Angeles still leads the Kings by one game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference after losing at Detroit.

Now, Sacramento leaves for a tough five-game, seven-day road trip.

"We have to play at a higher clip than we've played this whole year on the road,'' coach Eric Musselman said.

Linas Kleiza, who entered the game in place of Iverson, scored 10 of his career-high 24 points over the final 5:55 of the first quarter, including eight straight as the Nuggets ended the period on a 10-2 run to get back in it. He also grabbed eight boards and had a basket as Denver started the fourth quarter with a 6-0 spurt.

Artest missed two games last week following his latest legal troubles, then was reinstated Saturday when he offered an emotional public apology to his family, teammates, coaches, fans and the entire NBA.

Artest kept a low profile before the game and Musselman had already decided to start the volatile forward, who had the load of defending Anthony for much of the game.

Before tipoff, Artest shook hands with a couple of people at the scorer's table before bumping chests with Kevin Martin, then greeted Anthony, Camby and the rest of the Nuggets with some friendly words. One man in the Arco Arena crowd yelled "Go Ron!''

Artest received loud cheers when he went to the line with 6:12 left in the first quarter. He clanked the first free throw before making the next to more applause. He swished a baseline 3-pointer at the 2:57 mark and the fans went crazy.

"It felt great,'' Artest said. "The introduction was good. I got the same amount of cheers. It felt like old times. It should be fine.''

After the Kings cut Denver's lead to 61-52 on Bibby's 3 with 10:15 to go in the third, Anthony answered with a three-point play on the other end before Bibby hit two more 3s.

The Kings went 7+ minutes without a field goal in the second quarter following Corliss Williamson's basket at 11:10 and scored only three points during that span before Bibby's jumper ended the drought.

Iverson returned with his three fouls at the 9:58 mark in the second quarter and didn't commit another the rest of the game. He hit a quick shot and then had back-to-back assists to give the Nuggets a 38-33 lead, forcing Musselman to take a timeout.

Artest, the central figure in the 2004 brawl between Indiana Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans that cost him 73 games as punishment, faces a March 22 arraignment following his March 5 arrest on suspicion of domestic violence and using force or violence to prevent a woman from reporting a crime. He was released later the same day after posting a $50,000 bond.

"He's in a situation where coming back for your first game sometimes can be good and sometimes can be a distraction,'' said Karl, who dealt with the 15-game absence of Anthony this season after his brawl with the New York Knicks.

Notes: Kleiza, a second-year forward, came in averaging 5.9 points. ... The Nuggets reached 100 points for only the second time in five games. ... The Kings got only 12 points from their bench.

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