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Jazz top Nuggets, keep pace in West

DENVER (AP) -- The Utah Jazz thought they had to beat the Denver
Nuggets, and they made doing so seem almost effortless.

Mehmet Okur scored 24 points and the Jazz used easy layups to
shoot 58.5 percent from the field in their 115-104 win over the
Nuggets on Wednesday night. It was the highest shooting percentage
the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets have allowed an opponent
this season.

Andrei Kirilenko added 21 points and seven blocked shots for the
Jazz, who have won three of their last five games. With
Sacramento's win over Portland, Utah remained 1½ games behind the
Kings for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

"This was very important for us," Kirilenko said. "We're
still alive. We are keeping our heads in the game and in the
race."

Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points and Andre Miller added 19
points and 12 assists for the Nuggets, whose magic number to clinch
the division remained at six. Their lead over the Jazz dropped to
5½ games.

Nuggets coach George Karl said Utah's desperation gave the Jazz
a psychological advantage. Before the game, he said his team --
which had won nine of its previous 12 games -- was perhaps too
confident and loose.

"We were a happy team, but not a serious team," Karl said.
"They were a playoff-serious team who knew they had to win this
game."

The Jazz won by getting easy baskets, especially in the first
half, when they shot 63 percent from the field and scored 28 points
in the paint. Utah led 56-45 at halftime.

"We played some zone in the second quarter and we caught Denver
off guard," Kirilenko said. "We were deliberate and kept
executing."

Utah extended its lead to as many as 16 in the third quarter,
but the Nuggets came back to make it a game.

Anthony hit a 3-pointer with 7:58 remaining in the game to pull
to 95-89, but Carlos Boozer made a layup to extend the lead to
eight. He finished with 15 points.

It was a common theme all night, with the Nuggets scoring, but
failing to stop Utah on the other end.

"Seventy-five percent of our attack was easy layups,"
Kirilenko said. "We had good rotation and sharing the ball."

The Jazz essentially sealed the game when Anthony was called for
a technical foul for yelling at the referee with 4:44 remaining.
Okur made the free throw to give Utah a 10-point lead. Kirilenko's
block of Anthony's layup with less than 2 minutes was the final
insult.

The Nuggets played without center Marcus Camby, who sat out with
a back strain. Eduardo Najera returned after missing four games
with a sore right knee, but finished with two points and three
fouls in 3 minutes.

Without Camby, the Nuggets grabbed a season-low 17 defensive
rebounds.

"If we had (Camby) tonight, we probably could have had more
rebounds, but you can't use that as an excuse," Nuggets forward
Ruben Patterson said. "It was just horrible out there."

Game notes
Utah's 56 first-half points were a season high. They had
scored 55 points twice, the last time against the Hornets on Monday
. ... Anthony has scored at least 25 points in nine straight games.
... The Nuggets and Jazz finish their season series April 12 in
Utah. ... The Nuggets said X-rays Wednesday showed G Earl Boykins'
broken left hand was healing. He has missed five games. Another
X-ray is planned in one week.