for this game

Nuggets aim to wrap up Northwest Division

Apr 13, 2009 - 5:30 AM By Santosh Venkataraman Stats Senior Writer

Sacramento (16-65) at Denver (53-27), 9:00 p.m. EDT

DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Nuggets are two wins away from locking up the Northwest Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

They can accomplish the first of those goals Monday night when they look to clinch their first division title in four years with a matchup against the lowly Sacramento Kings.

Denver (53-27) can wrap up its sixth division title with a win over the Kings. If the Nuggets do that, they can earn the No. 2 seed if they win at second-place Portland on Wednesday.

This contest may be a bit of a trap game for Denver, which will face the worst team in the NBA after losing to the best team in the West in its last contest. The Nuggets had an eight-game winning streak snapped Thursday with a 116-102 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

"We hung in the game. I think they feel there was an energy to that team tonight that they haven't had in the last couple of weeks," Denver coach George Karl said.

Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points and J.R. Smith added 19 despite 6-of-15 shooting. Denver shot 44.4 percent after shooting 52.0 percent during its winning streak.

"They're a great defensive team and they got us frustrated a little bit. They just kept executing on offense like they always do," Smith said.

Denver also committed a season-high 32 fouls, which resulted in 46 free throws for the Lakers - the most by a Nuggets' opponent.

Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin missed his fourth straight game Thursday with a left rib cartilage strain. He remains day to day.

Denver enters with a nine-game home winning streak, with only one of those contests decided by single digits. The Nuggets have faced only one winning team in that stretch - Utah, which owns the worst road record among West playoff teams at 15-25.

Sacramento (16-65) lost 118-99 in Denver on Jan. 20 and won one of two home meetings with the Nuggets this season. The Kings have split their last 14 games at the Pepsi Center, where they have won at least once in their three previous seasons.

The Nuggets are seeking to notch three wins over the Kings in a season for the first time since going 3-1 in 1992-93.

Denver can also tie a franchise record with its 54th win, matching the 1987-88 team.

Sacramento's eighth straight loss, 95-92 to San Antonio in its home finale Sunday may have been its most frustrating. The Kings were beaten on Michael Finley's 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left - a 3-point attempt that came after the shot clock expired for the Spurs.

Shot clock violations are not reviewable.

"It was just a bad call, period," Kings guard Bobby Jackson said. "I think at the end of the day, you've got to call the game the way it's supposed to be called."

Spencer Hawes scored a career-high 24 points to lead Sacramento.

Kings guard Kevin Martin - the team's leading scorer - missed his sixth straight game with a sore left ankle and won't play the rest of the season.