The Denver Nuggets avenged their worst defeat of the season by thrashing the New Jersey Nets 121-96 on Monday. JR Smith and Nene Hilario scored 19 points and four other Nuggets put up double-figures to make amends for a 114-70 defeat to the Nets on Feb 7. "We owed them," said the forward Kenyon Martin, who had missed five of the previous six games due to a back injury.
"I don't want to jeopardise what we've done (to get me healthy) the last few days, but it just feels good being able to run up the court with the guys." The Nets were without high-scoring point guard Devin Harris, who suffered a strained shoulder against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. Vince Carter carried the load with a game-high 32 points and guard Keyon Dooling filled in with 17 but it was not enough to stop the Nets losing their fourth in a row.
At 28-39, New Jersey are two games out of an Eastern Conference play-off spot with 15 games remaining. The Northwest Division-leading Nuggets (43-25) are a half game behind the Houston Rockets for the third best record in the Western Conference. "Our formula's pretty easy. Get 25 assists and hold the team under 100 points, we usually win," said Denver coach George Karl. The Charlotte Bobcats have begun their push for a play-off berth with a 112-86 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Gerald Wallace scored 25 points and DJ Augustin added 15 for the Bobcats, who ended a three-game losing run to move within one game of the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls in the race for the final play-off spot in the Eastern Conference.
Chris Bosh's 18 points and 14 rebounds was the only positive note for the Raptors, who slipped to their eighth defeat in nine outings. Elsewhere, the Houston Rockets managed without the flu-stricken Yao Ming to beat the New Orleans Hornets 95-84. Ron Artest scored all of his 18 points in the second half to end the Hornets' five-game home winning streak. He was ably assisted by Luis Scola and Aaron Brooks with 14 points each.
The Oklahoma City Thunder spoiled Gregg Popovich's 1,000th game as San Antonio coach by beating the Spurs 78-76 to win their fourth successive game at home. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 25 points, while Tony Parker paced the Spurs with 28 points but missed a three-pointer in clutch time to edge the win. LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and eight rebounds and Brandon Roy finished with 20 points and nine assists to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 103-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Travis Outlaw added 18 points and Joel Przybilla had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who are trying to reach the Western Conference play-offs for the first time since 2003. * With agencies