Denver 120, Sacramento 115

DENVER, April 4 (AP) -- George Karl was emotionally spent.

The Denver Nuggets coach returned to the team after spending two days with his son, who had surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes.

"We were all aware of the situation, with his son and everything'' Nugget forward Carmelo Anthony said after Denver's 120-115 win over Sacramento on Wednesday night.. "He settled us down by telling us all was well.''

Karl missed Tuesday's game against the Lakers to be with his son, who had surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes.

"He's doing great,'' the coach said of his son. "I think we can move to another chapter. My big thing is to hopefully make Coby cancer free for the rest of his life.''

Anthony produced his fourth straight 30-point game with 31 points, but the Nuggets didn't make life easy for their coach, going through their usual second half meltdown. Sacramento trimmed the lead to five in the fourth quarter.

"Satisfied or happy wasn't something I was feeling in the second half,'' Karl said. "I was searching for energy, searching for some bodies that wanted to compete a little more intensely.''

"They seemed to find some more answers than I did and fortunately we had a big lead and still won,'' Karl said.

Anthony, who also had eight rebounds and four assists, has scored 30 or more points 31 times this year and in 75 games in his career. Nee added 28 points and 12 rebounds for the Nuggets, winners of three straight.

The win kept Denver in the hunt in the race for sixth place in the Western Conference. The Nuggets (38-36) moved a half-game behind the sixth place Los Angeles Lakers (39-36), who lost to the Clippers.

"We weren't thinking about the Lakers tonight,'' Anthony said. "We were thinking about the coach and the unfinished business we have the rest of the way.''

The Nuggets are 37-13 when scoring at least 100 points and 1-23 when they don't.

Ron Artest led the Kings with 32 points. Kevin Martin added 26 points for Sacramento, which has lost four straight.

"I give our team a lot of credit, effort-wise, in the second half,'' Sacramento coach Eric Musselman said. "Defensively, in the first half, giving up 71 points and the percentage they shot from the field, was certainly disappointing.''

Sacramento (30-44) began the day 6+ games behind the Clippers (36-37) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

"We finished strong,'' Artest said. "We aren't officially out of the playoffs yet, so we will still play hard.''

The Kings trailed by 16 after three quarters, but closed the gap to 99-90 early in the fourth quarter on Martin's 3-pointer. But Nene had two rebound baskets over the next two minutes to put the Nuggets ahead 105-92 and Allen Iverson's jumper made it 109-94 with 4:48 left.

Sacramento went on a 12-2 run to close within 111-106 with 1:42 left, but Nene made six free throws to secure the win.

Notes: Sacramento and the Nuggets split the four-game season series to the Nuggets. ... The Kings are 5-15 on the second night of back-to-back games. ... John Salmons (2,003) reached 2,000-point plateau for his career with four points. ... Nuggets coach George Karl returned to the bench after missing a game to attend to family matters. ... Camby blocked Martin's shot and sent him to the floor hard early in the first quarter. ... F Eduardo Najera has missed five of the last seven games.

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