- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

DENVER (AP) - Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points and the Denver Nuggets clinched a playoff spot by holding on for a 111-104 victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night after blowing most of a 27-point, second-quarter lead.

The Nuggets’ win, coupled with San Antonio’s 96-95 loss to Oklahoma City, moved Denver into the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference heading into the final two weeks of the season.

Denver’s 49-26 record is its best 73-game mark since joining the NBA in 1976. The Nuggets clinched a playoff spot for the sixth straight season. Only Dallas, Detroit and San Antonio have also made the playoffs every year since 2003-04.

Denver has won nine of 10 and New York has lost nine of 10, so a mismatch was expected, and the Nuggets obliged by racing out to a 62-35 led with five minutes left in the first half.

That’s when they got sloppy, and the Knicks, who were led by Nate Robinson’s 30 points, got hot.

The Knicks used a 26-3 spurt spanning halftime to pull to 65-61 and make a game of it, much to the chagrin of the Pepsi Center crowd that had settled in for another blowout from the Nuggets, who are vying for home-court advantage in the playoffs for the first time in Anthony’s six seasons in the NBA.

New York pulled to 80-77 on Wilson Chandler’s jumper with 1:19 left in the third quarter, but that was as close as the Knicks could get as the Nuggets scored the next 14 points.

Again, no lead was safe on this night.

The Knicks responded with a 10-0 spurt of their own to pull to 94-87.

Kenyon Martin scored 10 points and six of them came in the final five minutes, all of them long jumpers while Denver was clinging to its lead.

The Nuggets led 110-104 with under a minute left when Nene altered Chandler’s shot, then wrested the rebound from him, securing the win.

The Knicks played without guard Larry Hughes (ankle), swingman Quentin Richardson (ankle) and center Eddy Curry (knee), and the Nuggets led by 27 before settling for a 65-52 halftime cushion.

The Nuggets shot 61 percent on the first half, making 27 of 44 shots from the field, but they were just 4-for-8 from the stripe, a harbinger of what was to come in the third quarter, when they went cold from every spot on the floor.

Since 1991-92, which is as far back as their records go, the Knicks’ biggest comeback was a 26-pointer at Milwaukee on March 14, 2004, when they overcame a 65-39 deficit in a 103-100 win.

Notes:@ The Nuggets’ best mark since joining the NBA is 54 wins in 1987-88. … The Nuggets recalled G/F Sonny Weems from the D-League Colorado 14ers. … There’s a petition Nuggets fans are signing on bringbackbirdman.com urging the team to re-sign Chris Andersen. Coach George Karl hadn’t heard of it, but said, “It’s better than firegeorgekarl.com, I know that.”

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