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Nuggets head to 1st Western Conference finals since ’85

Denver ends nasty series with Dallas in five feisty games

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony (right) falls back to make a shot over Dallas Mavericks center Erick Dampier (left) and guard Josh Howard on Wednesday in Denver.

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony (right) falls back to make a shot over Dallas Mavericks center Erick Dampier (left) and guard Josh Howard on Wednesday in Denver.

DENVER – Chauncey Billups is taking his hometown team to new heights with a big assist from Carmelo Anthony.

Behind 30 points from Anthony and 28 from Billups, the Denver Nuggets beat the Dallas Mavericks 124-110 on Wednesday night to wrap up their semifinal series in five feisty games.

So, the Nuggets are leaving all the animosity with the Mavericks’ players, fans and owner behind and heading to their first Western Conference finals since 1985.

The Nuggets, who are 8-2 in the playoffs after tying their franchise record with a 54-win regular season, will face either Los Angeles or Houston for the conference championship.

“It’s special. We worked hard in the offseason and training camp and throughout,” Anthony said. “We stuck to everything, we overcame adversity, we stayed humble and our hard work paid off.”

Winners of 16 straight games at the Pepsi Center, where no opponent has won since March 9, the Nuggets would start their next series on the road if the Lakers win, and at home if Houston does. The Lakers lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 Thursday night in Houston.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said the combination of Billups, a proven winner, and Anthony, “who’s just taking quantum leaps as a great player and leader,” makes the Nuggets a true title contender.

“These guys are legitimate, a legitimate championship-caliber team,” Carlisle said. “They’ve got a great shot. They’ve got a real opportunity.”

The Nuggets didn’t dare dream of this type of success when the season began following the departures of defensive stalwarts Marcus Camby and Eduardo Najera.

“Sometimes when you’re forced to come together and fight together and persevere, your best qualities come forward,” Denver coach George Karl said.

The impetus for the transformation came when the team made its biggest trade ever, Allen Iverson to Detroit for Billups, who turned his hometown team from an afterthought into a championship contender after leading the Pistons to six straight Eastern Conference finals and the NBA championship in 2004.

“He’s a leader,” Anthony said of Billups. “He came on this team and he brought a businesslike attitude to our team. He brought a defensive mindset we were looking for.”



> Boston at Orlando, 4 p.m., ESPN. Celtics lead 3-2

> Lakers at Houston, 6:30 p.m., ESPN. Lakers lead 3-2

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