DENVER (AP) -- If Andre Miller can't find an open man for an easy
bucket, Earl Boykins probably can. If Wesley Person can't spot up
and hit a long-range jumper, Miller, Boykins or someone else on the
Denver Nuggets probably can.
Miller had 22 points and eight assists and the streaking Nuggets
made more than half their shots for the third straight game Sunday
night in a 114-103 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
"We're just finding the right guys at the right times and
moving the ball up the court," Miller said to explain his team's
recent shooting spree.
By winning for the 11th time in 12 games, Denver stayed 2½ games
ahead of Minnesota in the race for the last playoff spot in the
West and pulled within 2½ of Memphis for seventh place.
The Bucks, led by 24 points from Desmond Mason, played hard and
kept things close for most of the game. When Tony Kukoc made his
fourth 3-pointer with 10:30 left, Milwaukee trailed only 91-85.
Lately, though, Denver has been moving the ball well and
shooting even better. The Nuggets put a six-point game out of reach
during a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter, courtesy of a long jumper
and two free throws from Boykins and three long-range jumpers from
Person, who is 31-for-60 since the Nuggets acquired him eight games
"This is a perfect fit for me," Person said. "I don't have to
do much. All I have to do is keep knocking down shots and play the
game the right way."
Coach George Karl thinks Person is part of the reason Denver
can't seem to miss these days.
"I think it's contagious," Karl said.
The Nuggets, a 44-percent shooting team this season, made 56
percent against the Bucks, marking the third straight game they've
shot 54 percent or better and scored at least 114 points.
Even though they've compiled them against losing teams -- the
Bobcats, Clippers and Bucks -- those kind of numbers are almost
unheard of in the NBA, regardless of the opponent. Almost as rare
are the 25-plus-assist nights the Nuggets have been having to
trigger the good shooting. With 27 more Sunday, Denver has 98 in
its past three games.
"The point guard play the last three games -- I don't think you
could be much more satisfied," Karl said.
Miller had seven of his assists in the first quarter, most of
which went to Kenyon Martin, who finished with 19 points. Boykins
finished with 10 points and eight assists and Carmelo Anthony had
Denver also scored 28 fast-break points -- a result Karl
attributes to a focus on pushing the pace and keeping the ball
moving, the way Denver did it in the days of Doug Moe, who is now
working as Karl's assistant.
"We didn't follow through on our game plan, which was to limit
their transition and not let them run up and down the court,"
Bucks guard Michael Redd said.
The game marked the return of Nene to Denver's lineup. Out for
the last 13 games with a knee sprain, the power forward returned
and made three buckets -- including a sweet, spinning, left-handed
shot in the lane -- in seven minutes.
When the Nuggets were struggling early this season, there was
talk they might deal Nene to get a shooting guard -- someone like
Redd, who will be a free agent after this season. General manager
Kiki Vandeweghe stood pat, though, and Sunday it looked like a good
decision: Redd finished with 23 points, but shot only 8-for-25.
"We struggle when our perimeter guys don't shoot the ball
well," coach Terry Porter said. "Mason had a good night, but the
guys overall had a tough one."
Karl improved to 2-0 this season against the Bucks, the
team he left after the 2003 season. Including wins over Cleveland
and Golden State, Karl is 4-0 this season against his former teams.
... Bucks guard T.J. Ford returned to Texas to continue his
rehabilitation from neck surgery. ... Asked if he had any interest
in the job opening in Portland, where he used to play, Porter said:
"No interest. My attention is on Milwaukee. I want to see the
turnaround through." ... Karl on Anthony's improvement since the
coach arrived: "He's learning that he has a coach who does not
like volume shooting. He likes volume winning over volume