for this game

Smith's fourth-quarter surge carries Nuggets past Grizz

Mar 25, 2008 - 6:02 AM By Jason Smith PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) - J.R. Smith made sure the Denver Nuggets kept pace in the Western Conference playoff race on Monday.

Smith scored 25 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to help the Nuggets notch a 120-106 victory over the lowly Memphis Grizzlies, who were looking for their first three-game winning streak this season.

Smith connected on 7-of-9 3-pointers in the fourth alone after the Grizzlies cut the deficit to 93-88 early in the period on rookie Javaris Crittenton's 3-pointer at the 9:30 mark.

"I thought in the fourth quarter, the (Grizzlies') zone (defense) gave us a lot of baskets and (Smith) made a lot of big threes," Denver coach George Karl said. "But I think he closed the game out more than won the game."

Smith's seven 3-pointers in the final period tied Denver's franchise record for 3-pointers made in a quarter, a mark he matched earlier this season in a road loss at Chicago.

"As long as I can shoot like that and we win, I'm cool," said Smith, who nailed seven fourth-quarter 3-pointers in a 135-121 loss at Chicago on February 22. "If it ends up like it did in Chicago, I'm mad.

"It felt like shooting in the ocean, you just can't miss. Anything you throw up goes in. Hopefully, I'll have more nights like this."

All-Star Allen Iverson scored 26 points and Carmelo Anthony added 23 for Denver (43-28), which moved within one-half game of the eighth-place Golden State Warriors (43-27) in West standings.

Denver, which shot just 29 percent in the second quarter, outscored Memphis, 28-9, over the first 7:48 of the third to forge a 79-66 advantage.

The Grizzlies scored six straight points to close the gap to 79-72, but the Nuggets responded with a 9-2 burst to extend the lead to 88-74 late in the third.

The fourth quarter belonged to Smith, who finished 9-of-15 from the field overall, including 7-of-12 from 3-point range.

"They put (Smith) on the wing and we got out there late," Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said of Smith's hot shooting. "We had a couple of times when our guys did not get a hand up. He was a big key."

Rudy Gay poured in 30 points on 13-of-28 shooting and Hakim Warrick added a season-high 29 for Memphis.

"They made a lot of shots in crunch time," Gay said. "Both Carmelo and Allen came out hot, and of course J.R. They really turned up the intensity in the third quarter. They were able to make some shots, and it was tough for us to come back."

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