Nuggets win, but game is essentially meaningless
DENVER – Carmelo Anthony had 36 points and 13 rebounds, and Earl Boykins had 18 of his 24 points in the second half to help the Denver Nuggets end their regular season with a 119-115 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.Short-handed and with nothing to play for – Game 1 of the first round is Sunday in San Antonio – Denver came out flat, with plenty of turnovers and defensive breakdowns. But the Nuggets pulled things together in the third quarter and ended on a high note after losing their previous two games by a combined 42 points.Boykins also had 14 assists and Nene added 21 points and 13 rebounds for Denver, which finished 49-33 for its best season since going 54-28 in 1987-88.Darius Miles had a career-high 47 points – 10 on five vicious dunks – for Portland, which has its most losses (54) since 1973-74 with one game left. The Trail Blazers also finished 9-32 on the road, their worst record away from Portland since they were 5-36 in 1973-74.Denver played without center Marcus Camby (hamstring), power forward Kenyon Martin (knee) and backup forward Eduardo Najera (hand), then lost point guard Andre Miller for the second half when his back stiffened up.The Nuggets took their first lead, 85-84, on DerMarr’s Johnson’s two free throws with 1:44 left, and Boykins followed with a nearly impossible, off-balance three-point play. Neither team led by more than four after that, and it came down to who could hit the big shots.Boykins put the Nuggets up 108-106 with a runner in the lane with just over two minutes left, then Greg Buckner scored inside on transition. Ruben Patterson answered with a dunk to cut it to two, but Wesley Person then dropped in a 3-pointer from the corner and Anthony broke out for a layup to make it 115-108 with 33 seconds left.Denver’s late run offset a monster night by Miles, who had a jump in his step the moment he left the bench.He started off with a pair of jumpers and ended the first quarter with eight points, punctuated by a rebound slam high over everyone with 2.4 seconds left.Miles started off the second quarter by shaking Bryon Russell for a three-point play on a tomahawk dunk, then threw down another after scrapping for a rebound in the lane to cap a 12-4 run that put the Blazers up 44-32.Miles added another three-point play and one more tomahawk, finishing the quarter with 24 points.Anthony tried to keep pace. He was aggressive early, scoring seven of his 13 first-quarter points on free throws, and had 22 by halftime.It wasn’t quite enough.Led by Miles’ 14-of-18 shooting, Portland shot 59 percent in the first half to take a 70-56 lead.Notes: Portland F Shareef Abdur-Rahim was ejected early in the third quarter after receiving his second technical foul for arguing calls. … Najera will get his cast off on Thursday, but the Nuggets aren’t sure when he’ll return.
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