DENVER, Colorado: The Denver Nuggets won their first playoff series since 1994, by beating New Orleans 107-86 in game five of their first round National Basketball Association series on Wednesday.
Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points for the Nuggets who had a 58-point blowout in game four and will face the Dallas Mavericks in round two.
"It feels good," Anthony said. "We worked so hard. We still got a lot of business to take care of, but we are going to soak this one in."
Dallas advanced to the Western Conference semi-finals by defeating San Antonio in five games. Denver swept the season series with the Mavericks 4-0.
Anthony's 34 points were a career playoff best. Chauncey Billups had 13 points and 11 assists, and J.R. Smith scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half to fuel Denver, which needed just five games to go from traditional first-round fodder to a playoff success story.
"They have so many weapons," said Chris Paul of Denver. "They have a real tough team and they are tough to deal with."
The game was tied 62-62 halfway through the third quarter before Denver went on a 24-4 run to seal it.
David West led the Hornets with 24 points and Paul had 12 points and 10 assists.
The Nuggets were coming off the most lopsided road win in NBA playoff history, a 121-63 shellacking in New Orleans on Monday.
Denver coach George Karl told his players not to look at game five as a gimme after what happened in game four.
"I am proud of my guys," Karl said. "This has been a year that had a lot of different spirit to it.
"I thought we were trying too hard in the first half and I told them to 'slow down and relax. You are a better basketball team.'"
The Hornets were 13-6 following a loss of 10 or more points, and they looked for much of this night like they were going to win. They built a nine-point first-quarter lead before settling for a 49-49 tie at halftime.
The Hornets went toe-to-toe with the Nuggets until Denver's third-quarter run started the celebration.
It was especially sweet for Billups, who was born and raised in Denver. He came from Detroit in the Allen Iverson trade a week into the season and transformed his beloved Nuggets from an afterthought into the West's second seed.
In East action, Atlanta won the battle of staredowns and hard fouls, emerging from a four quarter slugfest with a 106-91 win over Miami in game five.
Joe Johnson scored 25 points for the Hawks who took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and are trying to reach the second round for the first time in 10 years.
There were plenty of testy moments in the game as Miami star Dwyane Wade banged his head on the floor in the first half. He later came back and finished with 29 points.
"There at the end it turned into a highlight show. A pickup game highlight reel, really trying to embarrass us," Miami's coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Now we've played five games against each other. I don't think anybody on either side likes each other anymore."
It was the best game of the playoffs for Johnson as the Hawks took control in a second quarter that elevated them to a 63-40 halftime lead. Flip Murray added 23 points.
Early on, Wade collided with Josh Smith and hit the back of his head hard on the court. He stumbled to the locker room for treatment, holding a towel to his head.
(China Daily 05/01/2009 page11)