DENVER (AP) -- Close to being benched for the first time in his
life, Carmelo Anthony came through with the kind of game that could
jump start him and his team.
Anthony broke out of his early season slump with 34 points,
seven rebounds, five assists and four steals, helping the Denver
Nuggets end a three-game losing streak with a 117-109 victory over
the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night.
"I needed this night," Anthony said. "As badly as I was
shooting, I needed this one. It was good for me and it was good for
Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik considered having Anthony come off
the bench against the Pistons after last year's rookie sensation
struggled through the first five games. Anthony ended up starting,
but he clearly got the message.
With an extra spring in his step from the start, Anthony was far
more aggressive than he had been to start the season, going hard to
the basket, bulling in for rebounds and hounding the ball on
He scored on a layup with a hard drive for the game's first
points, then got out on the break for a dunk. Anthony later scored
on another fast break dunk, hanging on the rim for extra emphasis,
and closed out the quarter with a bullet pass to Kenyon Martin for
Anthony had 16 points by halftime without having a play called
for him and kept it going in the second half, scoring 11 points in
the third quarter as Denver built an 88-73 lead. He finished
11-for-20 -- making all three 3-point attempts -- after shooting 31
percent over the first five games.
And after booing him several times the past few games, the fans
were clearly back on Anthony's side, giving him a standing ovation
after he fouled out with 25 seconds left.
"Carmelo played with a vengeance," Bzdelik said.
But it wasn't just Anthony.
Stagnant and stingy to open the season with four double-digit
losses in five games, the Nuggets played by far their best game
despite losing center Marcus Camby to a hamstring strain late in
the second quarter.
Earl Boykins had a career-high 32 points to become the smallest
player in league history to eclipse 30 points, doing most of his
damage after dislocating his middle finger and putting back in
place himself in the first quarter.
Andre Miller added 14 points and six assists, Rodney White hit
key shots down the stretch and Denver shot 50 percent -- 7-for-11
from long range -- to end a seven-game losing streak against the
"It was a much-needed win for our basketball team," Bzdelik
said. "The way we won is the way we have to play, start to finish:
scrappy, intense, up and down."
The Nuggets still almost found a way to lose it.
After leading by 15 at the end of the third quarter, Denver started getting sloppy to let the Pistons back in it.
But that proved to be the Pistons' last gasp. White followed
with a 3-pointer, Boykins hit a jumper and Anthony added two free
throws after the 5-foot-5 Boykins sneaked in for an offensive
rebound, putting the Nuggets up 109-101 with 1:12 left.
"We came out and we weren't ready to play, we gave them life
and we couldn't catch up," interim Pistons coach Gar Heard said.
"It wasn't because we planned it that way. We just tried to get
our guys to play and for some reason we just couldn't pick it up
Detroit opened the season 3-1 despite not playing all that well,
but the Pistons couldn't keep it up against the peppy Nuggets.
Richard Hamilton had 25 points, but missed two key free throws
in the final minute. Carlos Delfino added 17 points and the Pistons
shot 57 percent, but it wasn't enough to overcome 23 turnovers and
the absence of Ben Wallace. The two-time NBA defensive player of
the year left the team after his brother died of brain cancer on
"We weren't very disciplined out there," said Detroit's
Chauncey Billups, who had 16 points before sitting out the fourth
quarter with ice taped to his ankle. "Anytime you are missing Ben,
it is different. Having the confidence that he is there is big, but
even with all that this is a game that we have to win and that we
feel we should win."
Detroit's Derrick Coleman had three points in 16 minutes in
his first game this season. Billups had five assists, giving him
2,004 for his career. ... Martin was ejected with 41 seconds left
after getting a technical foul for elbowing Detroit's Darvin Ham.
He also received a technical for arguing a call in the first half.
... Spud Webb had been the shortest player to score 30 points. The
5-foot-7 guard did it four times.