Issel takes leave, and so do Nuggets

DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Nuggets were surprised that coach Dan
Issel wasn't returning right away from his suspension. It showed in
their loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Denver went about five minutes of the fourth quarter without a
point, allowing Golden State to rally for a 105-101 victory on
Saturday night.

Issel planned to be back on the bench after serving a four-game
suspension for making an ethnic remark at a fan. But
just hours before Saturday's tipoff, Issel requested and was
granted a leave of absence.

General manager Kiki Vandeweghe said he expected the paid leave
of absence to last only a day or two, allowing Issel time to
"consider his future."

Denver fell to 2-3 under acting coach Mike Evans.

Nuggets forward Raef LaFrentz said the players weren't informed
of Issel's plans until the pregame meal.

"It was a little letdown," LaFrentz said. "We were excited to
see Dan come back."

Antawn Jamison scored 29 points, and Danny Fortson had 25 points
and 17 rebounds for Golden State.

The Warriors scored 13 straight points, including eight by
Fortson, to erase a 92-88 deficit with 5:24 left and produce a
101-92 lead with 30 seconds to go.

The 6-foot-8 Fortson had 10 points and five rebounds in the
fourth quarter.

"Fortson was terrific," Warriors coach Brian Winters said.
"He had 25 and 17. That was a huge night. He's an unbelievable
rebounder for a guy his size. He takes up a lot of space, has
tremendous hands and he loves to rebound. The scoring was just an
added bonus tonight."

James Posey had a career-high 33 points for the Nuggets.

Over their five-minute scoring drought, Denver missed 12 shots
and had three turnovers.

"We couldn't make a shot," Evans said.

Evans said he was "absolutely surprised" by Issel's decision
to take a leave of absence and said he thought the Nuggets players
"were prepared to hear a different voice than they heard the last
four games."

Asked about Issel's unexpected absence, Nuggets guard Nick Van
Exel said, "I don't know if it affected us tonight. As
professionals, we still have to come out and perform."

LaFrentz' 3-pointer and Voshon Lenard's two free throws gave
Denver its four-point lead. Jason Richardson's basket made it 92-92
with 3:32 left. Fortson made one free throw and Jamison two, and
Fortson's rebound layup put the Warriors up 97-92 with 1:14 left.

The Nuggets cut the deficit to 101-98 on back-to-back 3-pointers
by Posey and Van Exel, but Richardson then made four free throws in
the final 12 seconds.

Golden State made 34 of 45 free throws compared with Denver's
14 of 17.

Lenard's 3-pointer capped a 14-4 run that gave Denver a 19-8
lead with 4:50 left in the first quarter. Two baskets each by
Jamison and Fortson helped the Warriors shave the deficit to 25-22
at the end of the period.

Mookie Blaylock's fastbreak layup after a Denver turnover gave
Golden State a 30-29 lead early in the second quarter. The Warriors
fashioned a 14-3 run late in the period, including six points by
Jamison, and led 49-40 at halftime.

Posey scored 15 points in the third quarter, including 11 in the
last three minutes, as Denver rallied from a 13-point deficit to
get within 76-71 entering the final period.

The Nuggets' 11-2 spurt early in the fourth quarter, including
four points by Lenard, made it 92-88.

Game notes
Warriors forward Chris Mills didn't make the trip because
of a neck injury. ... The Nuggets gave up 100 points for the third
straight game and the 10th time this season. They are 0-10 in those
games. ... Denver lost in San Antonio 109-74 on Friday night, while
Golden State lost 111-108 in overtime at home to Seattle.