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Jazz beat Nuggets 112-104 to clinch series

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz are almost as familiar with their next opponent as their most recent.

After eliminating division rival Denver in six games, the Jazz are heading to Los Angeles for another series against the Lakers, who have knocked Utah out of the past two playoffs.

"We certainly know who they are," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "You tell your team, concentrate on playing basketball and forget the other stuff."

The Jazz didn't have much time to celebrate beating the Nuggets 112-104 Friday night to clinch the opening-round series in six games.

Utah was a little weary after outlasting the Nuggets in a game full of fouls, but happy the next flight was to Los Angeles and not back to Denver for a dreaded Game 7.

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," Sloan said.

The second round opens Sunday in Los Angeles, which also advanced in six games with a win at Oklahoma City on Friday night. The Jazz were 1-3 against the Lakers in the regular season, the same record they had against the Nuggets before the playoffs began.

Utah ended up winning the series even without starting center Mehmet Okur, who ruptured his left Achilles' tendon in the first game. Andrei Kirilenko also didn't play in the first round because of a strained left calf, but the Jazz still outplayed the Nuggets to advance for the first time in two years.

Now the Jazz have to figure out how to get that confidence they have built and take it with them to Los Angeles.

"We are a resilient team," said Deron Williams, who added 14 points and 10 assists for the Jazz. "We are going to fight no matter who we have out there on the floor."

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 an 11-0 run by Utah 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."

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.

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 C.J. 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.

"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'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.