Nuggets beat Grizzlies 123-101 in home finale

DENVER (AP) — J.R. Smith scored 26 points and the Denver Nuggets broke out of their offensive funk with a 123-101 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.

With their biggest output in a month, the Nuggets also got 21 points from Carmelo Anthony and 20 from Nene, both of whom sat out the fourth quarter while watching Smith and Aaron Afflalo, who scored 22 points and pulled down a career-best 13 rebounds.

Now, the Nuggets are off to Phoenix for a crucial game in their season finale Tuesday night.

A win by the Nuggets would secure their second straight Northwest Division title, at least the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket and home-court advantage in the first round.

The Utah Jazz, a half-game behind first-place Denver in the division, visit Golden State on Tuesday night and host the Suns on Wednesday night.

Beating the Suns would also give the Nuggets their 54th win, tying a franchise record set in 1987-88 and matched last season, when they advanced to the Western Conference finals as the No. 2 seed.

The Nuggets are a different team this time around, having lost coach George Karl, who is undergoing treatment for throat cancer, for most of the last two months and also playing without defensive stalwart Kenyon Martin for a good chunk of this stretch run.

In his second game back since missing 18 games with left knee patellar tendinitis, Martin had eight points and six rebounds in 25 minutes.

Mike Conley had 22 points to lead Memphis, which lost forward Zach Randolph when he was ejected late in the third quarter.

Randolph was whistled for his fifth foul after shoving Nene to the floor while going for an offensive rebound. He continued jawing with the officials on his way to the bench and received a double-technical and was tossed. Nene swished all four free throws to put Denver ahead 90-72.

Since 1998-99, the Nuggets have won 22 of 23 home games against Memphis, which looked for much of the first half as though it could win its 41st game and avoid a losing season.

The Nuggets, though, used a 20-6 run late in the second quarter to take control at 60-49. The spurt included consecutive breakaway buckets by Anthony following steals by Nene and Chauncey Billups and a breakaway 3-pointer by Smith, who also sank a fadeaway 3 from the top of the key earlier in the quarter.

Although the Grizzlies closed to 63-57 at halftime, they never got it going in the second half to make a game of it.

NOTES: Denver finished 34-7 at home, currently the best mark in the Western Conference, one that the Lakers can tie with a win over Sacramento on Tuesday night. ... Nuggets F Joey Graham was inactive with a sprained left ankle. He is day to day. ... This marked the first game on the Nuggets bench for G Coby Karl, coach George Karl's son, who signed last weekend along with C Brian Butch. ... Stan Kroenke, who owns the Nuggets and the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, made a surprise bid to purchase the remaining 60 percent share of the NFL's St. Louis Rams on Monday. Kroenke has been 40 percent owner of the Rams since 1995.