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Artest Leads Kings, 100-82

April 16, 2006|From the Associated Press

Give Ron Artest two thumbs up.

Artest's injured right thumb felt fine after he left Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets bruised and battered Saturday night at Denver and put the Sacramento Kings on the verge of an eighth consecutive berth in the playoffs.

Behind Artest's defensive play and Mike Bibby's 23 points, the Kings routed the Nuggets, 100-82, and moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

A win in the Kings' final two games or a loss by the Jazz, who have three games left, will secure the playoff spot for Sacramento.

The Nuggets' loss means they will open the playoffs on the road even though they've won the Northwest Division, because they won't have a better record than the sixth-seeded team, whether it's the Clippers or the Grizzlies.

Artest hurt his thumb Tuesday night against Phoenix, and a medical exam before the team's flight to Denver revealed an aggravation of an injury that wasn't properly repaired during his college days at St. John's.

Artest had extra padding on his injured thumb and that affected his shot -- he was three for 13 from the field -- but he said he's not going to be as big of a scorer now and suggested his stifling play on Anthony was an indication of what's ahead.

"I figure I have to do something else now. Rebound, play defense, get some assists," Artest said. "I'm going to take shots, but they are going to fall in crunch time. They may not fall as much as they used to, but they are going to fall, so I'm not going to be shy about shooting."

Orlando 102, Philadelphia 97 -- Dwight Howard scored a season-high 28 points and grabbed a career-high 26 rebounds to lift the Magic over the 76ers at Orlando, Fla.

Atlanta 120, Milwaukee 114 -- Josh Smith scored a career-high 28 points and Marvin Williams had 19 to lead the Hawks to victory at Milwaukee, but the Bucks still qualified for the playoffs. Milwaukee made the playoffs just before halftime when Orlando beat Philadelphia.

Memphis 93, Houston 81 -- Mike Miller scored 25 points, Shane Battier made his first eight shots and had 19 points, and the visiting Grizzlies completed the franchise's first season sweep of the Rockets.

Charlotte 92, Indiana 91 -- Primoz Brezec scored 18 points, including the basket that forced overtime, and Alan Anderson made a free throw with 59 seconds left in the extra period to lift the host Bobcats.

Golden State 86, Portland 81 -- Ike Diogu had 15 points and eight rebounds, and the Warriors handed the host Trail Blazers their 17th loss in 18 games.

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