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Indiana falls for fourth straight time

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Kenyon Martin wasn't hurting nearly as much
as the Indiana Pacers.

Still a bit sore from an injury at Milwaukee the night before,
Martin had 25 points and a season-high five steals Saturday night
as the Denver Nuggets won their second straight under new coach
George Karl, beating the slumping Pacers 95-88.

"I just went out and did a couple of drills," said Martin, who
was listed as questionable before the game because of a sore groin.
"I felt OK, so I just decided to go. There were certain movements
that bothered me, but for the most part I was all right."

It was the fourth straight loss for the Pacers and their first
at home against the Nuggets in 10 years.

"He's a macho warrior on the court. He gives us a post
presence," Karl said of Martin, who played 36 minutes and hit 8 of
11 field goals and 9 of 10 free throws.

"I thought our guys got tired out there," Karl said. "We
played a good fourth quarter defensively and found enough ways on
offense."

Denver won its first game under Karl on Friday night, rallying
to win in Milwaukee. Against the Pacers, Martin helped the Nuggets
get a quick start with 14 points in the first half. He also had
three free throws and two baskets in the third period and added a
big field goal late in the fourth quarter to end Indiana's final
push.

"For us, right now, it's not about worrying about being down,
it's about getting angry," said Indiana coach Rick Carlisle. "We
are no longer an elite team. We are a mediocre team struggling to
stay in the playoff race, and we have to play perfect."

The Pacers won an NBA-best 61 games in the regular season last
year, but the brawl with fans in Detroit early this season led to
suspensions of three starters, including Ron Artest for the rest of
the season. Since then, even with the return of Jermaine O'Neal and
Stephen Jackson, the Pacers have dropped two games below .500.

"We had a little spurt in the third quarter that we thought
might carry us, but it didn't," said Indiana's Reggie Miller.
"Anytime you get down in double-digit points, you're going to have
a hard time digging yourself out."

Three-pointers by Miller, Jamaal Tinsley and Jackson had given
Indiana its biggest lead at 67-62, but Martin and Carmelo Anthony
each hit two free throws, then another basket by Martin put Denver
back in the lead. There was one more tie before two straight
baskets by Earl Boykins put the Nuggets in front for good.

Denver, which twice led by 12 in the first half, matched that at
87-75 on a three-point play by Marcus Camby. Two free throws by
O'Neal brought the Pacers within 89-85, but Martin scored his final
basket with 42 seconds left to make it a six-point game and the
Pacers never recovered.

"That's just confidence with being a shooter," Martin said.
"If I'm open, I'm going to knock it down."

O'Neal led the Pacers with 22 points, while Miller added 15 and
Jackson and Tinsley had 14 each. Anthony finished with 15 points
and Camby had 13 for the Nuggets.

Denver, which shot 52 percent in its victory at Milwaukee,
continued its on-target shooting against the Pacers, doing most of
its early damage on back-door cuts to the basket.

Seven Denver baskets in the first quarter came on dunks or
layups, including an alley-oop slam by Martin that erased an early
Indiana lead midway through the period.

Game notes
Miller's two free throws gave him 6,057 for his career,
tying him with Wilt Chamberlain for 11th-most in NBA history. He
also made one 3-pointer, extending his NBA record to 2,500. ...
Indiana's Anthony Johnson missed his second straight game with the
flu. Teammate Jonathan Bender, who missed the past three games with
a sore knee, played 13 minutes and was scoreless. Indiana's Fred
Jones left the game in the fourth quarter with a sore right knee.
... Boykins hit all four of his free throw attempts, stretching his
streak to 32 in a row and 72 of the past 74. ... The Nuggets'
previous victory in Indianapolis was in 1995, a span of nine
straight losses. ... Denver finished 2-3 on its road trip.