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Nuggets turn tables on Nets

THE Denver Nuggets avenged their worst defeat of the season by thrashing the New Jersey Nets 121-96 on Monday.

J.R. Smith and Nene Hilario scored 19 points apiece and four other Nuggets put up double-figures to make amends for a 114-70 defeat to the Nets on February 7.

"We owed them," said forward Kenyon Martin, who had missed five of the previous six games due to a back injury. "I don't want to jeopardise what we've done (to get me healthy) the last few days, but it just feels good being able to run up the court with the guys."

The Nets were without high-scoring point guard Devin Harris, who suffered a strained shoulder on Sunday.

Vince Carter carried the load with a game-high 32 points and guard Keyon Dooling filled in with 17 but it was not enough to stop the Nets losing their fourth in a row.

At 28-39, New Jersey is two games out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot with 15 games remaining.

The Northwest Division-leading Nuggets (43-25) are a half game behind the Houston Rockets for the third best record in the Western Conference.

"Our formula's pretty easy. Get 25 assists and hold the team under 100 points, we usually win," said Denver coach George Karl.

In New Orleans, Ron Artest scored all of his 18 points in the second half as the Houston Rockets overcame the absence of giant Chinese center Yao Ming in a 95-84 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

Luis Scola and Aaron Brooks each scored 14 points, and Scola had 12 rebounds to help the Rockets end New Orleans' five-game winning streak at home.

Chris Paul had 29 points and 11 assists, while David West had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Hornets.

Yao sat out with flu-like symptoms and Dikembe Mutombo started in his place.

In Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant scored 25 points and Thabo Sefolosha added 12 as the Thunder spoiled Gregg Popovich's 1,000th game as San Antonio's coach with a 78-76 win.

The Thunder didn't lead until midway through the fourth quarter, but kept San Antonio to its season low in scoring and escaped when Tony Parker missed a 3-pointer from the left side in the closing seconds.

Parker scored 28 points to lead San Antonio, and Tim Duncan had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Matt Bonner added 10 points.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Gerald Wallace scored 25 points and the Bobcats began an important week for their playoff hopes by beating the Raptors 112-86 to snap a three-game losing streak.


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