Denver 120, Memphis 111

DENVER, April 16 (AP) - Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets reached 50 wins for the first time in 20 years with a 120-111 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

The Nuggets learned in the first half that Dallas had beaten New Orleans, clinching the seventh seed and relegating Denver to a first-round playoff series with the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers.

Even without a chance of moving up from the eighth seed in the rugged Western Conference, the Nuggets were intent on cracking 50 wins for the first time since Doug Moe's 1987-88 team went 54-28.

"It's the benchmark of a great year, and I've just always felt that if you get to 50, you're doing your job at a very high level,'' coach George Karl said.

The Nuggets' 50-32 record tied for the third-best since the team joined the NBA in 1976.

Denver's starters all watched the fourth quarter from the bench after taking a 99-84 lead with unusually deep rotations. Allen Iverson led Denver with 21 points.

"Everybody knows how big that stage is,'' Iverson said. "I relish the moment. This is what I play basketball for. This is why I love it so much. The competitive part of me is going to definitely come out. It would have come out regardless who we played or who we played against, but definitely under the bright lights, those are the moments I cherish.''

Just like his matchup with Kobe Bryant.

"Let's go. This is what it's all about for me. You can't draw it up any better,'' Iverson said. "People say he's the best basketball player on the planet, so I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge. Especially with me believing that about myself, so let's go.

"This is what it's about. If you're scared, get a dog.''

Even without a chance of moving up from the eighth seed in the rugged Western Conference, the Nuggets were intent on cracking 50 wins for the first time since Doug Moe's 1987-88 team went 54-28.

"It's the benchmark of a great year, and I've just always felt that if you get to 50, you're doing your job at a very high level,'' coach George Karl said.

The Nuggets' 50-32 record tied for the third-best since the team joined the NBA in 1976, and the 50 wins are the most ever by an eighth-seeded playoff team.

The seven games separating Denver and Los Angeles is the narrowest gap between the top and bottom playoff teams in a full season since the league went to a 16-team playoff format in 1983-84.

Denver's starters all watched the fourth quarter from the bench after taking a 99-84 lead. Kenyon Martin logged the most minutes among the starters, collecting 11 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes. Anthony played 21 minutes.

Kyle Lowry led the Grizzlies' starters with 22 points, and reserve Andre Brown scored a career-high 19, same as Hakim Warrick.

"It started out as a good game, but I think quickly they showed they were the better team and they are playoff bound for a reason,'' Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni said. "We're a developing team.''

The crowd was sparse at tip-off thanks to a spring snowstorm and Golden State's loss on Monday night that gave the Nuggets the final playoff spot in the West.

Notes: Anthony, who finished with a 25.7 scoring average, said he's fighting a stomach virus. ... Minnesota in 2000-01 held the previous mark for most wins by an eighth-seeded team with 47.


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