Already without their top scorer and a key defensive player, things didn’t look good for the Denver Nuggets when their best scoring threat had stomach problems.
But six of the 10 Nuggets in uniform Sunday night at Denver scored in double figures and Denver defeated Sacramento, 102-89, and beat out the Kings for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Backup center Brian Williams fueled the balanced attack with 13 fourth quarter points, and Denver earned the No. 8 seed in the West for the second year in a row.
“It was a gut win, definitely a gut win,” said Williams, who finished with 18 points. “I don’t think Sacramento came out entirely bloodthirsty and didn’t want to do what it took to win. You could see it in their eyes--they were ripe for the picking.”
Sunday’s victory gave Denver a season split with the Kings. Had the Nuggets lost, they would have lost the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Nuggets played well without leading scorer Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and reserve forward Tom Hammonds. They also lost LaPhonso Ellis to tendinitis in the second quarter and Reggie Williams to an upset stomach at halftime.
Abdul-Rauf sat out for the fifth time in the last seven games because of a bruised right leg and a sprained right ankle. Hammonds flew to Florida to be with his ailing grandfather.
Williams returned to lead Denver with 23 points despite sitting out the third quarter. Dikembe Mutombo added 13 points, 19 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Nuggets.
The Nuggets, 41-41, had a nine-point lead at halftime, but Sacramento used a 17-6 run to pull to 68-66 with 11 minutes left in the game.
But Brian Williams had three dunks and a three-point play as Denver put the game away with a 24-13 run late in the final period.
Charles Barkley led Phoenix into the playoffs with its eighth victory in nine games as the Suns defeated the visiting Seattle SuperSonics, 105-100. . . . Sam Mitchell scored six consecutive points in a crucial third-quarter spurt as Indiana defeated Atlanta, 103-87, at Indianapolis. . . . Darrin Hancock scored nine points in leading the Hornets’ 26-0 third-quarter run during a 97-72 victory over Cleveland at Charlotte. . . . Chuck Person came off the bench to score 20 points as San Antonio defeated Minnesota, 97-91 at Minneapolis. . . . Glenn Robinson scored 36 points to overcome a 33-point performance by Michael Jordan in the Bucks’ 104-100 victory over Chicago at Milwaukee. . . . New York made 12 three-point shots, including four in a row by Hubert Davis in the fourth quarter of a 113-99 victory over Orlando at New York. . . . Mitchell Butler tied a career-high with 26 points in the Bullets’ 106-90 victory over Philadelphia, their most lopsided victory of the season, in Landover, Md. . . . Karl Malone had 23 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists in Utah’s 103-97 victory over the Rockets at Houston. Before the game, the Rockets placed center Hakeem Olajuwon on the injured list because of a stiff neck. Olajuwon’s absence should not affect his playoff eligibility. A player normally must miss five games when assigned to the injured list but that applies only to regular season games. . . . Chris Morris converted a three-point play with 5.9 seconds remaining to help New Jersey defeat Boston, 102-99, at East Rutherford, N.J. . . . Glen Rice scored 32 points in a 129-105 victory by the Heat over Detroit at Miami. . . . Clifford Robinson scored 17 points, 15 in the first half, as Portland brought the regular season to an end by defeating Golden State, 116-83, at Portland.