DENVER — Marcus Camby was angry.
The Denver Nuggets center was knocked to the floor in the first half, and then was charged with a foul. He barked at one of the officials, but then he took it out on the New Orleans Hornets.
Camby vented his anger by blocking five shots and grabbing 10 rebounds in the Nuggets’ 116-102 win Wednesday night. He was fine after the game, but his coach, George Karl, found something to carp about in Denver’s ninth straight win.
“I know George is upset, but all the games we’ve played against these
guys have been like that,” said Camby, who had six points and was the only starter not to hit double figures. “It’s hard to get up (for), but somehow we find a way to get a win. I wouldn’t look too much into it like coach is
looking into it. It was tough, but the most important thing is we got the win.”
That’s been happening a lot lately. They’re now 23-2 since the All-Star break, and 47-31 overall, the most wins by this organization in 17 years. But with the playoffs a little over a week away, and important games on the slate, Karl had to find something to correct.
“‘They got 35 in the third quarter.’ We heard it all,” Camby said. “He needs something to get on us about because we’ve been playing good basketball of late. We all understand what he’s trying to get at. We can’t turn it off and on, but it was one of those games against one of those teams.”
Even Karl conceded that sustaining intensity for 48 minutes against an 18-win team is tough.
“This was a hard game to play for everybody,” he said. “We played down to the other team’s talent at times.”
Unfortunately for New Orleans, the Nuggets played at their own talent level for most of the game. Earl Boykins hit a 17-foot jumper midway through the second quarter to put Denver up by 14 and stretched it to 25 by halftime.
The Hornets never really threatened after that. The closest they came was when Bostjan Nachbar hit a 3-pointer with 28.3 seconds left to round out the scoring.
Although it could have been a 40-point blowout, Boykins wasn’t upset.
“Truthfully, I’m going to tell you. I don’t care if we play ugly; I just want to win the basketball game,” said Boykins, who had 18 points on 8 of 15 shooting to go along with his game-high 11 assists. “We won the game; that’s all that matters to me.”
Carmelo Anthony tried by himself to end the game at halftime. He followed up his 32-point performance against Golden State on Monday with a 15-point effort in he first half against the Hornets.
He slowed down a bit in the second half, scoring just four points, but he wasn’t looking for his shot as much and played only 15 minutes after halftime.
He was more concerned with his team’s chances of moving up in the standings, and its two big games this weekend. If Denver can beat Memphis at home Friday, and then go to Houston and win Saturday, the sixth seed is almost a lock.
“Both of them will be tough,” Anthony said. “We get both of these, then I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
The stakes for Saturday’s game got a little higher with San Antonio’s loss to Utah on Wednesday. The loss almost guarantees the Spurs the second seed, which means the Nuggets, who are in the seventh spot this morning, are looking at a tough first-round matchup. If they beat the Rockets, who are 48-31, the Nuggets will hold the tiebreaker for the sixth seed and are looking at a first-round series with the struggling Seattle SuperSonics.
“We understand,” Wesley Person said. “Everybody scoreboard watches at this time of the year. That’s what makes it fun. We put ourselves in position to move up. We’ve got to take care of business against Memphis to give ourselves a chance on the road against Houston and try to move up.”
Which means they won’t have any trouble getting up for that game.