for this game

Martin, Anthony help Nuggets leap into contention

Mar 30, 2008 - 5:26 AM By Blake Redabaugh PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DENVER (Ticker) -- The race for the final two spots in the Western Conference playoffs just got a little tighter.

Kenyon Martin scored a season-high 30 points and collected 11 rebounds and Carmelo Anthony added 25 as the Denver Nuggets defeated the Golden State Warriors, 119-112, on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center.

A fifth straight win for the Nuggets (45-28) gave them a one-half game lead over the Warriors (44-28) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Things could get a lot more complicated on Sunday night when Golden State hosts the Dallas Mavericks (45-27), who now are only one-half game ahead of Denver for the seventh seed.

"The last five games have been stressful and pressurized games," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "We have responded well. March was our hardest month, and we put 10 wins on the board with one more to go."

Kelenna Azubuike's alley-oop layup with 3:12 remaining in the third quarter capped a 21-9 surge that gave Golden State its largest lead of the game at 86-83.

Denver then took control of the game with a strong finish to the third quarter and an even more impressive open to the fourth.

The Nuggets finished the third on a 5-0 run to take an 88-86 lead, and J.R. Smith added six more points and Linas Kleiza scored four to make it a 15-0 burst. The run bridged the third and fourth quarters and gave the Nuggets a 98-86 lead with 9:33 remaining.

"We were clicking offensively," Smith said. "Defensively, we made them miss shots and get those rebounds. When we play team ball, we win."

Golden State would not go away, however, and cut the deficit to 113-110 after a pair of free throws by Stephen Jackson.

Martin came up big with 1:11 remaining in the game as he hit a 15-foot jumper to give the Nuggets a 115-110 lead. The Warriors would not get any closer the rest of the way.

"It's one of the most important wins of the season," Martin said. "I was just being aggressive and shots went down. My teammates did an excellent job of finding me tonight. It's all about wins and losses right now."

"We had a chance at the end," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "We stayed close enough to have a chance. They played than we did tonight."

Martin helped the Nuggets get off to a hot start as he scored the first seven points in a 9-0 run, which gave Denver a 13-5 lead with 8:32 remaining in the first quarter. Denver led 38-32 at the end of the first as Martin finished the period with 11 points.

Two of the league's highest scoring teams cooled off in the second quarter. Both shot 38 percent from the field after shooting over 50 percent in the first quarter as Denver maintained a 65-61 lead at the half.

Baron Davis scored 28 points and Jackson chipped in with 25 for Golden State, which will host Denver on April 10 at Oracle Arena.

"I thought we had it," Davis said. "We did everything necessary to stay close and give ourselves a chance to win. We've got another tough one (Sunday against Dallas), so we can't really dwell on this one."