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Publish Date: 3/27/2005

Nuggets guard Earl Boykins, right, reaches out to pull in a loose ball as Kings guard Eddie House applies pressure Saturday in the fourth quarter of the Nuggets’ victory in Denver.AP/David Zalubowski

Selfless play keys Nuggets’ win

DENVER — With 35.7 seconds left and the game in hand, Andre Miller ran down the court, elevated and dunked.

The Denver Nuggets point guard isn’t normally a dunker. He prefers the simple to the extraordinary, but this time he couldn’t resist.

“I was just enjoying myself,” he said after scoring 18 points in the Nuggets’ 113-99 win over Sacramento on Saturday. “I get so caught up in getting everybody else involved, and that’s my job. The opportunity was there.”

The Nuggets have been taking advantage of a lot of opportunities lately, which is why they’re 14-1 since the All-Star break. Even without Marcus Camby (right ankle), Bryon Russell (left ankle) and the limited services of Kenyon Martin (left chest contusion), Denver made it look easy — and fun.

“Winning is always fun,” said Carmelo Anthony, who had 28 points. “Regardless if you win one game or 12 games in a row, winning is always fun. So this is fun to us right now.

“I don’t know if we know how to lose right now, that’s how fun it is. That’s a nice feeling. At the beginning of the year I don’t think we knew how to win, but we’ve turned it around.”

That’s an understatement. The Nuggets went from out of the playoff race at the end of January to the hottest team in the Western Conference, and they’ve done it convincingly. They’ve won six in a row, and Saturday’s game was the fewest points they’ve scored in the streak.

“Impressive,” Martin said. “One word. We did what we wanted to do.”

Denver (38-30) wrapped up its seven-game homestand 6-1, and Monday it gets a chance to avenge that one loss when it travels to Phoenix. The Nuggets haven’t beaten the Suns this year, but the way they’re playing now, they feel like they can beat anybody, and they seem to be getting better every night.

“This might be the best game we’ve played this season, especially against a good team,” said head coach George Karl, who is 21-5 since taking over.

The Nuggets continue to get contributions from everyone. Six players scored in double figures, four of them reserves. Denver’s bench outscored Sacramento’s, 50-22.

“With this team, when the best players are out, other guys come in and do the things that enable this team to win,” said Eduardo Najera, who led the B-team with 16 points. “We’re playing well, and we need to keep doing the things that we are doing to keep the winning streak going.”

What has been working is their defense and unselfishness. More importantly, the players have bought into what Karl has been teaching.

“Karl is a very, very energetic coach,” Anthony said. “He likes lots and lots of intensity. He gets his message across very clearly.”

Anthony has been on the receiving end of some tough messages, but he has responded. On top of his game-high 28 points Saturday, the 20-year-old forward had seven rebounds, four assists, one block and zero turnovers.

“This was the best game Carmelo has played for me all season,” Karl said. “We just rode him tonight.”

Anthony scored in every way. He went hard to the basket, he hit jumpers, and he had the flare for the dramatic. With 4 minutes, 14 seconds left in the third quarter and the Nuggets trying to pull away, Anthony got a pass from Miller and scored on a highlight-reel dunk that brought his fiancée, La La Vasquez, to her feet.

“I’m taking what the defense is giving me, trying to take good shots, not trying to force shots,” he said. “Last year I found myself trying to do things on my own, trying to win games on my own and put the team on my back. This year I’ve got help. We’re deep this year, everybody can do everything this year.”

Including winning. A lot.

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