The Denver Nuggets will have to beat some of the best teams in the NBA to earn their first playoff berth in nine years.
The Nuggets continue their remarkable playoff push against the Sacramento Kings at Pepsi Arena.
Denver is tied with Utah for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference with two games remaining. Portland is a game behind the Nuggets and Jazz. Denver owns the tiebreaker with both teams.
The Nuggets, who have won six straight home games, finish against Sacramento and San Antonio.
Rookie Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points, including six in overtime, as Denver took a major step toward their first playoff appearance since 1994-95 with a 110-100 win Saturday over the Trail Blazers.
Anthony scored seven of Denver’s last nine points in regulation, capped by a 17-foot jumper that made it 94-94 with 3.7 seconds left.
“My teammates had the confidence to get me the ball down the stretch and I answered,” said Anthony, who is averaging 25.7 points over the last 30 games.
Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said Anthony “made a lot of big-time shots. I’ve seen a lot of great clutch performances, and this rates with the very best.”
The win assured Denver (42-38) of its first winning season since 1993-94.
Bzdelik knows his team can’t celebrate, yet.
“We have a big game Monday night,” said Bzdelik.
The Kings have a lot riding on Monday’s game as well.
Sacramento can clinch their second straight Pacific Division crown with a win or a Los Angeles Lakers loss in the final two games.
Mike Bibby had 15 points and eight assists for Sacramento, which took a one-game lead over the Lakers with two to play by winning for just the fourth time in 10 games.
Sacramento is one game behind Minnesota for the conference’s top spot, but the Timberwolves have the tiebreaker.
STANDINGS (through April 10): Kings - 1st place (tied), Pacific Division. Nuggets - 6th place (tied), 14 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Stojakovic, 24.4 ppg; Miller, 10.4 rpg; Bibby and Divac, 5.4 apg. Nuggets - Anthony, 21.2 ppg; Camby, 9.9 rpg; Miller, 6.2 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Kings, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 8; Kings, 115-92. At Sacramento, Stojakovic made a career-high seven 3-pointers and scored 35 points, and Bibby added a career-best six 3s and 30 points to lead the Kings. Anthony had 24 points and eight rebounds for the Nuggets.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Kings - 21-18 on the road; Nuggets - 28-12 at home.