DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets don't care if they win ugly sometimes.
"You've got to win ugly in this league," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "There's no way you win pretty every night."
John Salmons scored 25 points and Beno Udrih added 24 for the Kings, who had a chance to win in the closing seconds despite playing the second of back-to-back games. Francisco Garcia missed a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left that would have given Sacramento a 100-99 lead, and then the Kings threw away the ensuing inbounds pass with 0.7 seconds left.
"I got fouled on that last 3," said Garcia, who finished with 21 points. "I thought (Iverson) hit my hands; that's why I fell."
It wasn't a pretty finish, but it was fitting for this game. The Nuggets couldn't put away Sacramento despite leading by 12 at halftime and 13 early in the third quarter. The Kings kept crawling back, thanks to 26 Denver turnovers.
"The 26 turnovers was kind of crazy," Karl said. "I want play aggressive, I want to play fast, I want to play wild at times, but I don't want to pass the ball crazy."
The last turnover was nearly the most costly. With Denver leading 99-97, Udrih stole Iverson's pass with 8.9 seconds left. Ron Artest drove to the bucket but kicked it out to Garcia for a 3.
"When it is all said and done, we had a chance to win it, and we didn't," Sacramento coach Reggie Theus said.
Anthony Carter was a big reason the Kings didn't win. The guard tied his season high in points with 17, and he kept the Nuggets close with 10 points in the third quarter.
"The opportunity was there," Carter said. "They kept coming off of me. I was trying to shoot the ball, take the ball to the basket and create."
With Carmelo Anthony struggling, Denver needed Carter's offense to enter the fourth quarter down by only one.
"I don't know if we win it without A.C. and Kenyon playing like they were playing," Karl said. "They had good energy."
The Nuggets led 59-47 at the intermission and increased it to 65-52 before the Kings made a run. Salmons' 3 with 4:38 left in the third cut Denver's lead to 69-68.
Salmons' steal and fast-break bucket, and Udrih's two layup gave Sacramento a 76-71 lead late in the third quarter.
The Nuggets trailed 80-77 early in the fourth when J.R. Smith converted a three-point play to tie it. Carter made a layup, and after a Sacramento turnover, Iverson's layup made it 84-80.
Artest and Udrih hit buckets to tie the game with 7:46 left, but the Nuggets went on an 8-0 run and the Kings were never able to take the lead in the fourth.
"We worked hard to come back and give ourselves a chance to win the game," Udrih said.
Iverson scored 19 in the first half as the Nuggets built a double-digit lead. His tip-in with 8:02 left in the second quarter was part of a 14-2 Nuggets run that gave them the lead.
During that run, he scored on a layup and fed Martin on an alley-oop that made it 50-42.
The Kings stayed with the Nuggets in the first quarter. Salmons had 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting in the first 10 minutes to give Sacramento an early lead. Iverson had 11 points and Anthony had 10 of his 14 to keep the game tied at 34 heading into the second quarter.
- Nuggets C Marcus Camby had his 6,000th career rebound in the first quarter.
- Nuggets F Eduardo Najera suffered a left knee contusion in the first quarter when he collided with Kings C Spencer Hawes with 2:23 left in the period. Najera hit a free throw before leaving the game with 6.5 seconds left. He did not return.