The Denver Nuggets look to continue their winning ways Wednesday when they host the Sacramento Kings as coach George Karl is expected to return following a one-game absence to be with his son, who underwent cancer surgery.
Led by assistant coach Adrian Dantley, the Nuggets (37-36) strengthened their playoff chances with a 111-105 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, pulling within 1 1/2 games of them for sixth place in the Western Conference. Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points, while Marcus Camby added 21, 20 rebounds and six blocked shots.
“The guys did a good job,” Dantley said. “They responded to me and they didn’t give me any problems. We needed the game. I’m sure coach Karl’s going to be happy about the win.”
The victory also gave Denver some breathing room ahead of the eighth-place Los Angeles Clippers and ninth-place Golden State Warriors, who they lead by one and 2 1/2 games, respectively, with nine games left.
“We needed a win,” said Camby, who is averaging 15.3 points and 15.0 rebounds in the last three games. “A lot of people are talking about trying to get the sixth seed. Sixth or seventh, you have to pick your poison—the Suns or the Spurs. We’re just trying to play at a high level entering the playoffs.”
Karl’s 23-year-old son, Coby, underwent seven hours of surgery for the removal of cancerous lymph nodes on Monday in Boise, Idaho. Dantley said he spoke with Karl, and was told father and son were doing fine.
“His son is more important (than the Nuggets-Lakers game),” Nuggets guard Allen Iverson said. “That’s the most important thing.”
With Karl possibly back Wednesday, Denver will try to salvage a split of the season series with Sacramento (30-43). Anthony scored 29 points, while Iverson and Linas Kleiza added 24 each in a 113-101 victory in the last meeting on March 11.
The Nuggets dropped the first two matchups, including a 101-96 loss on Feb. 3, when Anthony was held to 20 points. The All-Star small forward, who has topped 30 points in the each of his last three games, missed the first game between the teams on Dec. 22 due while serving a 15-game suspension for his involvement in a brawl in New York a week earlier.
The Kings are likely to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1998 and enter this contest six games behind the Clippers with nine to play. Sacramento’s 97-93 loss to Dallas on Tuesday was its fourth straight defeat and 11th in the last 13 games.
“We are professionals and we are all here for a reason, so we still want to go out every night and get some wins before this season is over,” Kings reserve John Salmons said.
Artest had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Sacramento, notching his first double-double since March 16, and Martin has averaged 21.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals this season against the Nuggets.