DENVER (AP) -- Jon Barry waved a towel and danced along the
sideline. Coach Jeff Bzdelik pumped his fist and yelled "Yes! Yes!
Yes!" Carmelo Anthony and Rodney White raised their arms at
midcourt and hugged.
Nearly a decade of ineptitude is over. The Denver Nuggets are
going to the playoffs.
Marcus Camby had 12 points, 21 rebounds, seven assists and five
blocked shots to help the Nuggets reach the playoffs for the first
time since 1995 with a 97-89 victory over the Sacramento Kings on
"I think a lot of people looked at our schedule the last part
of the season and thought we wouldn't have a chance," said forward
Ryan Bowen, the Nuggets' longest-tenured player at four years. "We
fought through it and got some big wins. And here we are."
With stars including Michael Jordan, Tyra Banks and Lionel
Richie in the stands, the Nuggets outhustled and outshot the Kings
to secure the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
The third-largest crowd in Nuggets' history (19,746) stood and
cheered for several minutes after the game. Players hugged and
hammed it up with fans. Bzdelik was lifted off the ground by a bear
hug from the equipment manager.
No doubt this was a huge relief for a team that challenged the
league's futility mark in 1998 and won just 17 games last season.
"This is a heck of a place to play and these people have been
great all year," Barry said. "A lot of people didn't give us any
chance and people believed, we believed in ourselves."
Sacramento lost any chance of gaining the top seed in the
Western Conference and will have to wait until Wednesday against
Golden State to try to secure its third straight division title.
The Kings shot just 1-for-13 on 3-pointers and were beaten 31-7
on the break to see their lead in the Pacific Division drop to a
half-game over the Los Angeles Lakers.
"We had the most motivation we possibly could have," Kings
guard Anthony Peeler said. "We could have clinched the Pacific
tonight. Now we have to go home and do it on Wednesday. We're
disappointed by this."
Denver won despite Anthony struggling against the Kings'
physical approach and a migraine that had him wincing throughout
the second half.
Anthony fought through the early punishment to finish the first
half with 13 points, but couldn't get much going in the second.
Holding his hand over his left eye and grabbing oxygen each time he
reached the bench, Anthony finished with 17 points on 7-of-25
"It started off early in the first quarter and it wasn't that
bad," Anthony said. "Then as I started running and the lights
started hitting me, the rim started moving and got blurry. We won
the game, forget the migraine."
Camby made up for Anthony's headaches.
Leading the break, blocking shots and cleaning up Sacramento's
misses, Camby keyed a 19-6 run that helped the Nuggets turn a
six-point halftime lead into a 69-56 advantage with 4:23 in the
Sacramento opened the fourth with a 10-1 run to tie it at 79,
but Camby made sure the Kings wouldn't ruin Denver's playoff party.
He dived to the floor to grab a rebound before Andre Miller hit
a baseline jumper with 1:19 left, then emphatically swatted away
Doug Christie's runner in the lane. With Camby behind cheering,
Anthony took off the other way for a breakaway dunk that put the
Nuggets up 93-87 with 1:02 left.
In case that wasn't enough, Camby had a steal at the other end
that led to two free throws by Miller that made it an eight-point
"I tried to do the little things out there, diving for balls,
playing hard on defense," said Camby, who also had two steals. "I
tried to use my experience to my advantage."
The Kings struggled early and late after beating the Lakers by
17 points Sunday.
Sacramento shot 8-of-22 in the first quarter and missed several
key shots in the closing minutes. Peja Stojakovic had 20 points and
Chris Webber added 18, but they went a combined 16-for-42.
"We didn't play solid enough for the full 48 minutes," said
Kings coach Rick Adelman, whose team has won just four of its past
11 games. "We played a pretty good fourth quarter until the last
minute-and-a-half, two minutes. That's not enough to win on the
road, which has been a scenario of ours for the last month."
Denver closed out the season with seven straight home wins.
... The logo for the 2005 NBA All-Star game, which will be played
in Denver, was unveiled during the second quarter. The logo, which
looks a lot like the Nuggets', was painted on the floor near
midcourt. ... Cleveland's LeBron James is the leading candidate for
rookie of the year, but Bzdelik thinks Anthony should get more
consideration. "It'll be a travesty and a mistake and absolutely
wrong if he's not at least co-rookie of the year with LeBron.
People should have taken notice all year long. Period."