DENVER (AP) -- It wasn't too long ago that the Denver Nuggets
were just hoping to make the playoffs.
With six straight victories, Denver has started to firmly
entrench itself as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and
move within a game of seventh place Memphis.
"We're better, a lot better," said Nuggets point guard Andre
Miller, who had 18 points and 10 assists in Saturday night's 113-99
win over Sacramento.
"I'm so much more relaxed and getting others involved and the
team is reacting."
Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 28 points as the Nuggets
improved to 21-5 under George Karl. The Nuggets hold a three-game
lead over ninth place Minnesota with 14 games remaining.
"We're not improving as fast as we did the first two weeks when
I got here," said Karl, 17-25 when he replaced Michael Cooper as
coach. "But we are still making improvements each game."
Peja Stojakovic led the Kings with 28 points and Cuttino Mobley
added 18 points for Sacramento, which fell into a tie with idle
Houston for the No. 5 seed in the West.
"Everyone in Sacramento seems to think it's a given,"
Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "We can't assume we are a
playoff team, certainly not the way Denver is playing or what could
happen with Minnesota for that matter."
The Nuggets began taking control early in the fourth quarter
when Earl Boykins hit a 3-pointer and short jumper to go up 90-82.
Boykins' layup with 7:02 remaining made it 96-87. Denver closed the
game making five uncontested layups, including two by Miller.
"I don't have to take or make shots like I had to last year
when I had to carry this team on my back," Anthony said. "This
year I have help from Earl and others and I can take what the
defense gives me."
Trailing 56-49 at the break, Denver started the third quarter
with a 16-5 run fueled by Anthony and Eduardo Najera. The two
combined to score 14 of the 16 points as the Nuggets took a 65-61
lead. The Kings closed the gap to 71-69 on a basket by Mobley, but
Greg Buckner's 3-pointer and a dunk by Anthony began an 9-2 run for
the Nuggets who led 82-78 after three quarters.
"We just keep on rolling," Anthony said. "Now we have to
carry this over on the road."
The Kings don't expect center Brad Miller (broken leg) to
be available until the second round of the playoffs. ... The Kings
bench is averaging nearly 24 points a game over the last 16 games
was outscored 50-22 by Denver's bench. ... Anthony threw his
headband to the ground in disgust when benched in the last two
minutes of the first half. ... A sprained right ankle forced Marcus
Camby to miss a second straight game. ... Denver completed the
seven-game homestand 6-1.