Jazz shove Nuggets out of playoffs
The Utah Jazz avoided a dreaded return to Denver and clinched a trip to Los Angeles instead.
The Jazz outlasted the Nuggets 112-104 in a Game 6 full of fouls between the division rivals, clinching the first-round series Friday night in Game 6.
Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 20 rebounds, and rookie Wesley Matthews scored 13 of his 23 points from the foul line, where Utah shot 51 free throws - 39 on personal fouls and four more on technicals by the frustrated Nuggets.
"We had a difficult time trying to stop some of their people and we still found a way to win the ball game," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "There isn't a better feeling in the world from a coaching standpoint than watching these guys give all they had to win the game."
Deron Williams added 14 points and 10 assists for the Jazz, who went on an 11-0 run after Carmelo Anthony had tied the game at 95-all midway through the final period.
Matthews went 13 for 15 from the free throw line as Utah persevered in the foul-filled game, making 34 of 51 free throws. He also had a key block on a shot by Anthony during Utah's run that clinched it.
"Everybody played great. That's the mark of our team this year. Guys step up when we need them to," said Boozer, who made 10 of 14 shots. "We played tough. We made stops and we made Melo work for his shots."
Chauncey Billups led Denver with 30 points and Anthony finished with 20 points on 6 for 22 shooting. Anthony also had 12 rebounds to lead Denver, which was outrebounded 44-39.
The Nuggets, playing without injured center Nene, avoided elimination with a win at Denver on Wednesday, but went 0-3 at Utah in the series.
"You have to give the Jazz credit. They stole home court and that proved to be the difference," Billups said. "Sometimes when we play against very, very disciplined teams, we tend to break down. We should have been able to run on them but being in foul trouble so much it stops the running."
Joey Graham scored 18 of his 21 points in the second quarter to get the Nuggets back in the game after they fell behind by 15.
Paul Millsap had 21 points, 11 rebounds and blocked three shots, Ronnie Price added 12 points and Kyle Korver scored 10 for Utah, which will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round. Jazz fans were already chanting "Beat L-A!" in the final minute.
The Lakers, who knocked the Jazz out of the playoffs the last two years, will host Game 1 on Sunday.
Williams finished the game with five fouls and was limited through much of the second half. He fell hard on his left arm, and the Jazz said he has a bruised left elbow. Williams was wincing as he made his way to the locker room while the rest of the Jazz celebrated.
Anthony chased Williams down and congratulated him with a quick hug outside the tunnel.
Denver was trying to force a Game 7 back at home Sunday. The Nuggets came pretty close despite falling behind by 15 early. They played with more cohesion than they had while losing Games 3 and 4 in Utah.
"It got a little frustrating at times. When things don't go your way on the road, it's frustrating," Anthony said. "I'm proud of my guys for fighting out there. The energy, the effort - it was out there. Everything we asked for was given on the court."
The Nuggets opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run and led by eight before Utah answered. Denver had a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter, then the Nuggets' emotions started to cost them.
Millsap broke a 95-all tie with his second three-point play of the fourth, putting the Jazz up 98-95 with 6:22 remaining and starting an 11-0 run as the Nuggets began to unravel. Martin drew a foul and a technical for shoving Williams over the baseline on a drive with six minutes left and Utah leading 98-95. It was the third technical on Denver. Although Miles missed the technical free throw, Williams hit both from the line for a 100-95 lead for the Jazz.
Matthews came up with a huge defensive play when he blocked a shot by Anthony under the basket, then drew Anthony's fifth foul when Billups was short on a 3-pointer with 4:55 left. Billups was called for a technical after the play and Matthews made the free throw, then two more to put Utah up 104-95.
"I wanted that opportunity. You live for moments like that," Matthews said. "Growing up as a kid, you always want to go up against the best. You want to get the stops at the right time."
Matthews added two more from the line with 4:23 left, and Utah's lead was 106-95
Acting coach Adrian Dantley, Graham, Kenyon Martin and Billups all received technicals for Denver.
Dantley received Denver's first after Anthony collided with Matthews and was called for an offensive foul with 4:13 left in the second. The Nuggets responded with a 13-0 run, including 11 straight by Graham whose putback got Denver within 53-52 with 58 seconds left in the second quarter.
"They're a good team. We knew that they would make a run," Korver said. "In the second half we just kind of slugged it out with them and made enough plays to win."
NOTES: Graham was 8-of-10 in the second quarter and scored 18 points. Graham's 19 points in the first half matched his career playoff total. ... The Jazz shot 56 percent in the first half. ... The Nuggets opened the third quarter on a 10-0 run, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Billups for a 64-56 lead.