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Nuggets win and improve Knicks' lottery position

DENVER - At least one team clinched a playoff spot last night here at Pepsi Center. With a 111-104 win over the Knicks, the Nuggets (48-26) earned their bid into the Western Conference bracket.

The Knicks? If anything, their lottery position is improving by the day. The loss brought the Knicks (29-46) closer to sliding behind the Raptors (28-45) for the eighth-worst record in the league.

Priorities do change, especially with the tragic number at 1.

One of the priorities of the remaining games was supposed to be to get Eddy Curry back into playing shape with the hopes of reviving some of the 6-11 center's mojo (and trade value). But after playing a season-high 6:48 Monday against the Jazz and 2:20 Saturday in Charlotte, Curry couldn't make it three straight games. Pain in his troublesome left knee caused him to pull out of last night's game, which was the fourth in five nights.

"That's on him," Mike D'Antoni said. "He's just going to have to get in better shape and keep working on it and keep trying to get over this."

There are three days until the next game, but that is another physical challenge: a back-to-back home-and-home this weekend with the Toronto Raptors. Curry said he plans to meet with the team doctor Wednesday and will have two practices to prepare for what would be his Garden debut this season, something he's wanted to avoid because of the fan reaction.

If the knee remains a problem, Curry might consider shutting it down for the remaining seven games and looking toward next season. "It's discouraging, but it's not too bad," Curry said. "Hopefully, it doesn't get any worse. We'll see what happens."

The season can't end soon enough for Curry, who has had his issues both on the court and off it with several legal battles and the murder of his ex-girlfriend. It started when he arrived for training camp in poor condition and then caught a bacterial infection that caused him to miss the first two weeks of camp.

He spoke optimistically after Saturday's game in Charlotte and said he was pain-free. But minutes before the game, he decided he couldn't play last night, even in spot minutes for his team, which also played without Larry Hughes (ankle) and Quentin Richardson (Achilles strain), which left them with nine players, including Joe Crawford and Courtney Sims, two D-League players on 10-day contracts.

Nate Robinson had 30 points for the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony had 29 for Denver.

The Knicks, who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday, fell behind by 27 points (64-37) with 4:01 left in the second quarter and, similar to the loss Monday in Utah, rallied to make it a game. They closed to within 80-77 on a turnaround jumper by Wilson Chandler with 1:19 left in the third. But that was it.

Notes & quotes: Al Harrington said he has reason to believe that, despite his expiring contract next season, he will remain a Knick beyond 2010. "I know that Donnie wants me here long-term; I've talked to him about that," he said. "I know Coach likes a lot of what I do out there on the court, so I can't worry about ." Harrington is making an appeal to the NBA to retract one of the technical fouls called against him by referee Eli Roe in Monday's game against the Jazz. Harrington admits he used a profanity to earn the second tech, but did not use any choice words to deserve the first . . . Crawford was surprised to see his former college coach, Billy Gillispie, fired. "I didn't think he would go that soon, in his second year," Crawford said.

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