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Kirilenko, Jazz extend Nuggets losing streak to four

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah coach Jerry Sloan was as frustrated
as his players during the Jazz's recent slump.

Losing three straight and seven of nine didn't bother him nearly
as much as the halfhearted effort he was seeing.

Sloan's message finally seemed to get across Wednesday when the
Jazz beat Denver 103-90, ending the three-game losing streak and
moving within two games of the first-place Nuggets.

"Coach said it best earlier at the shootaround today," said
Milt Palacio, who had 12 points and seven assists for the Jazz.
"It's like a little kid getting bullied every day and one day
you're going to have to stand up and fight."

And the Jazz did -- finally.

It was remarkably different from a 79-70 loss to San Antonio on
Monday. The Jazz also avenged a 30-point embarrassment at Denver
last month and extended the Nuggets' losing streak to four.

Andrei Kirilenko had 21 points, five blocks and five assists,
and Mehmet Okur finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds.

"We started to push the ball. We just got rebounds and beat
Denver at their own game," Kirilenko said. "They like to run a
lot and sometimes they forget about defense. So we kind of forced
them with our fast attack."

Denver was without Marcus Camby, who strained a muscle in his
left shoulder the night before in a loss at Sacramento, and his
absence was quite apparent. Utah finished with a 40-23 rebounding
advantage and shot 55 percent, outscoring the Nuggets 40-28 inside.

"It was probably their best transition game of the year. They
got way too many easy baskets," Denver's Andre Miller said.

Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points and Miller had 15 points and
nine assists for Denver.

The Nuggets had won seven straight before the losing streak
started last Friday against the Clippers. They shot nearly 60
percent in the first half Wednesday, but couldn't overcome going
6-for-20 from the floor in the third period.

Denver's lead in the division slipped to two games over
Minnesota and Utah.

"You can't let a team shoot the basketball so freely like we
let them tonight," Denver coach George Karl said.

After shooting 58 percent in the first half, Denver struggled in
the third quarter and the Jazz took advantage of Camby's absence by
getting inside for layups and rebounds.

Utah opened the third with a 7-2 run and led 75-67 entering the
fourth. Denver didn't have a field goal from Miller's turnaround
jumper with 2:48 remaining in the third until Kenyon Martin made a
shot 5 minutes later.

The Jazz took over with a 7-0 run to open the fourth quarter.
Keith McLeod started the run with a steal and a layup, Matt
Harpring converted a three-point play and Kirilenko made a spinning
layup to get the lead up to 82-67.

By the time Martin's short jumper went in with 9:48 left in the
game, the Jazz were already in command and never let Denver get
closer than 12 the rest of the way.

Martin finished with 18 points and led the Nuggets with six
rebounds.

Harpring scored 11 off the bench for Utah.<
^Notes@: The Nuggets had just five turnovers. ... In the second
quarter, Denver's Earl Boykins took a steal in for a layup, but
Kirilenko got there first and didn't even have to jump to block the
shot by the 5-foot-5 Boykins. ... Utah G Gordan Giricek (Achilles'
tendon) did not dress. ... Camby was listed as day-to-day. ...
After going 22-for-38 in the first half, Denver made 14 of 37 the
rest of the way.