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Nuggets win their first playoff series since 1994

CARMELO Anthony scored 34 points and Chauncey Billups led from the floor as the Denver Nuggets advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs, 107-86 over the New Orleans Hornets yesterday.

After five straight first-round flameouts, 'Melo led the Nuggets to their first playoff series win since 1994. They'll face the Dallas Mavericks in the second round.

Dallas advanced to the Western Conference semifinals 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. Denver native 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.

David West led the Hornets with 24 points and Chris Paul had 12 points and 10 assists.

Hawks 106, Heat 91

At Atlanta, the Atlanta Hawks moved closer to reaching the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time in a decade by beating Miami to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

On a night of hard fouls, plenty of banging and staredowns galore, Joe Johnson had his best game of the postseason with 25 points as the Hawks took control during a decisive second quarter that pushed them to a 63-40 halftime lead. Flip Murray added 23 points off the bench.

Josh Smith dunked his way to 20 points for the Hawks and even hit a rare 3-pointer. The Hawks also pounded the boards, outrebounding the Heat 37-29.

Heat star Dwyane Wade had 29 points, but banged his head on the court in a collision with Smith in the first half and didn't really get going until the game was already decided. Wade didn't get much help from teammates; Michael Beasley had 18 points and Jermaine O'Neal 14.
Game 6 is on Friday at Miami.


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