Nuggets Lose; Fall to Second Place

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - (AP) Kevin Martin had 26 points, seven rebounds and eight assists Sunday night for the Sacramento Kings, who never trailed in defeating the slumping Denver Nuggets 114-106.

It was a rare evening of excitement at Arco Arena, where the Kings have lost repeatedly and own the third-worst home record in the NBA. Sacramento ran off eight straight points to start the game, led by 12 at the half and never trailed in winning its 10th home game.

Martin connected on five 3-pointers for the Kings, who tied a season high, making 14 3-pointers. Andres Nocioni had 23 points, Spencer Hawes contributed 20 points and eight rebounds, and Francisco Garcia had 19 points.

Carmelo Anthony had 26 points and seven rebounds for Denver. Chauncey Billups had 22 points and eight assists, J.R. Smith scored 19 and Nene added 14 points and nine rebounds.

Denver has dropped two straight and lost six consecutive road games since a win in Philadelphia on Feb. 18.

The Nuggets pulled to 106-100 on Anthony's twisting layup in traffic with 1:54 remaining. Two free throws by Martin, a jumper by Garcia and a basket in the lane by Bobby Jackson built the Sacramento lead to nine points and clinched the victory.

Entering the game tied with Utah and clinging to a half-game lead over Portland in the Northwest Division, the Nuggets were in desperate need of a road win. It has been a bad couple of weeks overall for Denver, which dropped six of nine games to fall behind the Jazz, who won at Toronto earlier in the day.

The Nuggets are searching for momentum going into a favorable stretch in the schedule that starts with four straight home games in the next eight days. Four of their next six games come against some of the NBA's worst teams: Oklahoma City, the Clippers, Memphis and Washington.

After the Nuggets scored seven straight points early in the third quarter, reducing the margin to seven, the Kings responded with a 13-3 run highlighted by Martin's two 3-pointers that built the lead to 17 midway through the period.

Martin scored nine points and Hawes had seven in the third quarter, when the Kings kept the lead in double digits, leading 85-75 heading into the fourth period.

Nocioni had 16 points in 14 minutes and Hawes contributed 13 points, helping the Kings go into the half with a 61-49 advantage. Shooting mostly from the perimeter, Anthony scored 17 points for the sluggish Nuggets.

Nocioni started his first game as a King and made interim coach Kenny Natt's decision look good, scoring nine points in the game's opening 5 minutes.

Hawes hit his first three 3-point shots and scored 11 points, while Nocioni had nine as the Kings uncharacteristically led 35-25 after one quarter. Billups had nine points for Denver, which fell behind 11-2 and never led despite a 27-19 rebounding edge in the first half.


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