Nuggets Clobber Clippers

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DENVER - (AP) The Denver Nuggets had plenty of firepower and defense even without Kenyon Martin to beat the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers 120-104 Saturday night for their 11th win in 12 games.

J.R. Smith led the Nuggets in scoring for the second straight game with a scintillating 34-point performance off the bench, and Carmelo Anthony added 18 points.

Zach Randolph led L.A. with 22 points, and DeAndre Jordan added 21.

The Nuggets' winning ways have them on the cusp of earning home-court advantage in a playoff series for the first time since the 1988 Western Conference semifinals.

Denver is one of four NBA teams that have made the playoffs every year since 2003-04, joining Dallas, Detroit and San Antonio. But the Nuggets are the only one of the four who haven't won a single playoff series in that span.

The Nuggets (51-26) have a shot at surpassing their best record -- 54 wins in 1987-88 -- since joining the NBA in 1976, and if the keep winning, they'll secure the No. 2 seed in the West. They own a one-game lead over the Spurs for that spot.

Smith sank back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. After the second one gave Denver a 112-89 led, he did a crow-hop back down the court and when timeout was called, his theatrics included grabbing his right elbow and shaking his arm as though to try to cool off his scorching hand.

The crowd loved it, and on a night where the outcome was never in doubt, Smith provided the fuel for some fun.

Smith scored 21 points in just 12 first-half minutes as the Nuggets raced to a 66-47 halftime lead over a depleted Clippers team that was missing Marcus Camby (ankle), Mardy Collins (foot), Ricky Davis (knee), Al Thornton (foot), and Chris Kaman (flu).

Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy didn't want to play Steve Novak, who has a tender ankle, but he had do, and Novak scored nine points in 22 minutes.

Smith didn't just impress with his long-ball jumpers and his 12-for-20 shooting. He had three assists, including a sweet one from underneath that resulted in a 3-point swish from a wide-open Chauncey Billups.

Martin sat out with sore ribs and coach George Karl said he might also sit him Sunday night at Minnesota, which would give him almost a full week's rest when he returns against Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.

Martin was banged up against Utah on Thursday night, but wasn't sure exactly how. Karl said it was "probably the wrestling match that Utah makes you play."

Johan Petro started in Martin's place.

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