DENVER (AP)—It wasn’t too long ago that the Denver Nuggets were just hoping to make the playoffs.
With six straight victories, Denver has started to firmly entrench itself as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and move within a game of seventh place Memphis.
“We’re better, a lot better,” said Nuggets point guard Andre Miller, who had 18 points and 10 assists in Saturday night’s 113-99 win over Sacramento.
“I’m so much more relaxed and getting others involved and the team is reacting.”
Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 28 points as the Nuggets improved to 21-5 under George Karl. The Nuggets hold a three-game lead over ninth place Minnesota with 14 games remaining.
“We’re not improving as fast as we did the first two weeks when I got here,” said Denver coach George Karl, 17-25 when he replaced Michael Cooper as coach. “But we are still making improvements each game.”
“Everyone in Sacramento seems to think it’s a given,” Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. “We can’t assume we are a playoff team, certainly not the way Denver is playing or what could happen with Minnesota for that matter.”
The Nuggets began taking control early in the fourth quarter when Earl Boykins hit a 3-pointer and short jumper to go up 90-82. Boykins’ layup with 7:02 remaining made it 96-87. Denver closed the game making five uncontested layups, including two by Miller.
“I don’t have to take or make shots like I had to last year when I had to carry this team on my back,” Anthony said. “This year I have help from Earl and others and I can take what the defense gives me.”
Trailing 56-49 at the break, Denver started the third quarter with a 16-5 run fueled by Anthony and Eduardo Najera. The two combined to score 14 of the 16 points as the Nuggets took a 65-61 lead. The Kings closed the gap to 71-69 on a basket by Mobley, but Greg Buckner’s 3-pointer and a dunk by Anthony began an 9-2 run for the Nuggets who led 82-78 after three quarters.
“We just keep on rolling,” Anthony said. “Now we have to carry this over on the road.”
: The Kings don’t expect center Brad Miller (broken leg) to be available until the second round of the playoffs. … The Kings bench is averaging nearly 24 points a game over the last 16 games was outscored 50-22 by Denver’s bench. … Anthony threw his headband to the ground in disgust when benched in the last two minutes of the first half. … A sprained right ankle forced Marcus Camby to miss a second straight game. … Denver completed the seven-game homestand 6-1.