for this game

Jazz knock off playoff-hopeful Nuggets

Apr 13, 2008 - 5:36 AM By Chris Bellamy PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- With two games left, the best home team in the NBA is still fighting for home court in the first round. On Saturday night, the Utah Jazz got a little closer to accomplishing that goal.

Mehmet Okur had 20 points, 15 boards and five assists and Deron Williams added 19 and 11 assists to lead the Jazz to a 124-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets, spoiling their division rival's chance to gain a pivotal step toward clinching the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Ronnie Brewer added 20 points, five boards and six assists to help give the club its 53rd win of the season its most since going 53-29 in the 2000-01 campaign.

"It was a big game," Jazz forward Carlos Boozer said. "We've got to try and get home court, and we know Denver needs one more win to get in and solidify it. We came out with great effort, especially in the second half. If we win out, we get home court, so that's our goal."

With just days remaining on the league's regular-season schedule, the two Northwest Division foes both still have work to do in order to secure themselves for the postseason.

With Saturday's win, the division champion Jazz pulled even with Phoenix (53-27) and within 1 1/2 games of Houston (54-25) the two clubs vying for the No. 5 seed in the fight for home-court advantage in the first round.

The Jazz, who improved to a league-best 36-4 at home, host the Rockets on Monday night with a chance to gain more ground.

"We're playing pretty good, but we've still got two tough games," Williams said. "The opponent we're probably going to be playing in the first round, more than likely, the next game. We've just got to focus on winning out so we can try and get home-court advantage."

The Nuggets, meanwhile, had the opportunity to clinch their fifth consecutive postseason berth with a win over Utah and a Golden State loss - and for a while there, they looked like they might be up for the challenge, despite playing on the court where they lost by 27 just one month ago.

"This is a tough place to win," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I'm not sure if Utah might not be the best team in the Western Conference. I'm not a student of every (team) yet, but I know they're (darn) good."

After falling way behind early on, the Nuggets pulled back into contention with a 17-2 run which tied the game at 42-42. Midway through the third, Anthony Carter gave them their first - and, as it turned out, only - lead of the game at 71-70.

"We started playing well. We got stops and we were able to run," Nuggets guard Allen Iverson said of his team's early comeback. "But we came out in the second half and we didn't do that. We didn't run, we changed up the whole way we were playing. We had a style that was working, and then we went away from it."

The Jazz took full advantage. Boozer scored six points in a 16-4 run which gave Utah control for good.

The most pivotal moment in that run, however, wasn't a bucket or a turnover or a 3-pointer. With just over four minutes remaining in the third and the Jazz hanging onto a modest five-point edge, Williams drove down the middle of the lane and was fouled hard by Denver forward Carmelo Anthony.

Williams fell hard to the hardwood, landing on his right hip, and remained on the floor for a few minutes, drawing the Jazz coaching staff to the court before the star third-year point guard finally got up.

Anthony was whistled for a flagrant foul and the Jazz capitalized. Williams knocked down both free throws and, on the team's ensuing possession, Ronnie Price drew another foul and knocked down a pair of foul shots of his own.

"I just think it was a hard foul, I don't think it was a flagrant. I didn't mean any harm," Anthony said. "The way he fell, the referees probably thought it was a flagrant or a dirty play, but I know what it was, and the people in there know what it was."

Just like that, the lead was approaching double digits again, and from then on the Nuggets never again got any momentum on their side.

Iverson led Denver with 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while Anthony added 22.