Denver 119, Golden State 112

DENVER, March 29, 2008 (AP) -- The big showdown with the Golden State Warriors had barely tipped off when Allen Iverson banged his broken right ring finger.

Try as he might to block out the pain, he just couldn't shoot straight.

"I got hit on it early in the game, and it just bothered me throughout," Iverson said. "I hope my teammates don't think I was out there point-shaving or something."

Iverson's 4-for-20 performance hardly mattered thanks to Kenyon Martin, who scored a season-high 30 points, leading the Denver Nuggets past the Warriors in the wild, wild Western Conference playoff race with a 119-112 win Saturday night.

"That's when everybody else has to step up," point guard Anthony Carter said after the Nuggets moved into the eight playoff spot for the first time in six weeks. "A.I. ain't going to play great every night, and K-Mart did a great job."

So did Carmelo Anthony, who hit 11-of-16 shots for 25 points, and a trio of reserves whose third-quarter play keyed the victory: J.R. Smith (20 points, seven assists), Eduardo Najera (11 points, seven rebounds) and Linas Kleiza (eight points).

"It shows what kind of team we've got," Iverson said. "Because if I shoot the ball the way I did tonight and we still win the basketball game, it just says a lot about how 'Melo played, how Kenyon played, how Eddie played, J.R. -- everybody did their share."

Iverson wasn't fretting over his poor shooting performance, either.

"After the game was over, I felt like I had a great shooting night," he said. "Just for the fact we won."

The Nuggets moved a-half game ahead of the Warriors for the final playoff spot and pulled within a half-game of sliding Dallas for seventh place. The Mavericks visit the Warriors on Sunday night.

"It doesn't get any easier for us," Warriors coach Don Nelson said.

Denver also won the all-important tiebreaker with the Warriors.

"Every game is important from here on out," said Iverson, who finished with 14 hard-earned points. "We understand even if we got this one, we've got to concentrate on getting the next one. We're not satisfied."

Martin rendered A.I.'s throbbing finger and rare shooting slump moot points.

"His defense is what we talk about most nights, but tonight we can talk about his offense," coach George Karl marveled. "Kenyon was incredible."

Martin, who also pulled down 11 rebounds, downplayed his hot hand, however.

"I ain't worried about that, man," he insisted. "I'm about wins and losses, that's what I'm about."

Martin has made a remarkable return from microfracture surgeries on both knees, the last one of which cost him almost all of last season, and Karl called him the team's MVP. He's again throwing down dunks with authority like he used to in New Jersey, he's once more rejecting shots with abandon like he did when he was young.

And on this night, he was scoring points like he was still in college and facing outmatched opponents.

"I had a whole year to rest," Martin explained.

Martin's biggest bucket was a buzzer-beater from the left corner that made it 115-110 with 1:11 remaining, and Baron Davis, who led the Warriors with 28 points, misfired twice on 3-pointers in the final minute.

Stephen Jackson added 25 points for Golden State, Monta Ellis had 22 and Andris Biedrins 17 points along with a game-high 17 rebounds.

The Warriors pulled to 109-106 on a breakaway slam dunk by Ellis with 3:13 left, setting the stage for a frenetic finish.

Golden State overcame a double-digit deficit and took an 86-83 lead on Kelenna Azubuike's basket late in the third quarter. The Warriors suddenly looked in complete control at that point but started taking silly shots from all over and wouldn't score again for 6 minutes.

By then, the Nuggets had reeled off a 15-0 run.

Of the three teams hovering around the edge of the playoff race, the Warriors have the hardest schedule, which includes games at San Antonio, Dallas and Memphis next week.

"This is going to tell who we are as a team, whether we are capable or not," Davis said. "We have a tough one tomorrow, so we can't dwell on this one."

Notes: Warriors swingman Al Harrington had an ice wrap on his right hand after the game. "It's feeling numb. I blocked Kenyon's shot. I think I have two broken knuckles on my right thumb. I have it iced down and will see a doctor in the morning," he said. ... Martin's previous season high was the 24 points he scored in Miami on Feb. 12, and the most he's ever scored is 35, against Seattle in 2003. ... Mickael Pietrus (groin) missed his fourth straight game for Golden State, and Warriors coach Don Nelson said he wasn't sure if Pietrus would be available for Sunday's home game against Dallas. ... The lights outside the Pepsi Center were turned off for Earth Hour, the worldwide campaign to highlight the threat of climate change.

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