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Originally published Tuesday, December 19, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Sonics Notebook | Denver-Knicks brawl may aid Sonics in division race

Denver's playoff hopes received a tremendous blow Monday when the NBA delivered suspensions totaling 26 games to three players for their...

Seattle Times staff reporter

MEMPHIS — Denver's playoff hopes received a tremendous blow Monday when the NBA delivered suspensions totaling 26 games to three players for their part in Saturday's brawl with the New York Knicks.

Without forwards Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, their two leading scorers, the Nuggets (14-9) will be hard-pressed to catch Northwest division leader Utah (18-7), and suddenly they're vulnerable to falling out of the postseason race.

Anthony received a 15-game suspension and Smith was slapped with a 10-game penalty. They'll miss the Dec. 28 matchup against Seattle in Denver. Nuggets forward Nene received a one-game suspension.

"That's going to really hurt them, to lose your two top scorers," Sonics forward Rashard Lewis said. "That's just like me and Ray [Allen] being suspended for 15 and 10 games. That would definitely set us back and I'm sure it's going to hurt them until those guys get back."

Anthony is averaging 31.6 points and Smith 16.7.

"Now we're in a position where we can catch up with them easily," Lewis said of the Sonics (10-16). "You don't wish for things like this to happen, but now that it has, you think about how that can affect things in the division."

The Sonics trail Denver by 5 ½ games.

Player of the game: Memphis' Mike Miller finished with a season-high 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting, had 11 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. He played a game-high 53 minutes.

Play of the game: As time was expiring in the first overtime, Memphis' Chucky Atkins raced up the court and launched a tying, off-balance, 35-foot three-pointer over Luke Ridnour and Mickael Gelabale that forced another overtime.

Key statistic: The Sonics committed 25 turnovers, which resulted in 37 points. It's the sixth time this season Seattle has had at least 20 turnovers.

Up next: Dallas, 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at KeyArena.

Still an All-Star?

Lewis believes Anthony deserves what could be his first trip to the All-Star Game despite the forward's participation in the melee — a malicious sucker-punch on New York's Mardy Collins — and the fact Anthony will miss the next five weeks.

"He's still leading the league in scoring and he's carried his team this far," Lewis said. "I'd vote for him."

Minnesota's Kevin Garnett and San Antonio's Tim Duncan lead the fan voting after the first returns of ballots were tabulated on Thursday.

Anthony, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and Utah's Carlos Boozer are favorites to receive votes from the coaches, who will determine the remaining All-Stars in their respective conferences.

Lewis is on the bubble, along with Phoenix's Shawn Marion, Portland's Zach Randolph and the Los Angeles Clippers' Elton Brand.

Notes

• Lewis received his first technical foul of the season late in the second quarter Monday when he argued with official Bernie Fryer about what Lewis perceived to be a foul.

• Because of a scheduling conflict, Allen rescheduled an exam on his injured right ankle. He was to undergo a second test Monday but will have it today.

• Sonics coach Bob Hill is considering giving the players the day off Thursday because he feels they are fatigued.

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