117 - 110 Final
  for this game

Anthony has big game in return to lineup

Dec 28, 2008 - 10:06 PM By Larry Fleisher PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Carmelo Anthony's right elbow had painfully affected his shooting. On Sunday, he and the Denver Nuggets inflicted some more pain on the New York Knicks.

Anthony returned to the lineup and scored 32 points as the Nuggets opened a four-game road trip with a 117-110 victory over the Knicks.

J.R. Smith added 16 points and Chauncey Billups contributed 14 for the Denver, which improved to 20-11 and equaled the second-best 31-game start in franchise history and reached 20

wins before January for the third time.

The Nuggets reached those marks as Anthony came back from a three-game absence and reached 30 points for the third time. Before sitting out a home-and-home with Portland and Friday's

win over Philadelphia, the two-time All-Star had shot 8-of-27 but in this one, his shooting was vastly improved.

"I think that was the best thing that ever happened to me," Anthony said. "At first I was a litte hesitant about doing it but anytime you can get rest during a long season like this

it helped. I needed that rest."

Anthony shot 13-of-19 and the Denver shot 57 percent (45-of-79). The Nuggets started 6-of-17 but made 39 of their final 62 shots.

"It was nice to get that smile back and have fun," Anthony said. "I think after sitting out three games, watching the game and learning the game, you start knowing and start figuring out, 'ok we need this, we need that. Spacing on the court was important for us tonight."

"He was really hot," Billups added. "It's good to have him back. In close game situations, he's always a threat. They never doubled him and if they would have, he's grown to the player that's going to make the next play."

After taking a four-point lead into the fourth on Smith's buzzer-beating 3-pointer, the Nuggets allowed the Knicks to take a 106-105 lead on a pair of free throws by Chris Duhon with 4:43 remaining.

Denver regained the lead as Anthony hit three jumpers sandwiched around Billups' 3-pointer in the next two-plus minutes. Those baskets put them up 114-108 with just over 2 1/2 minutes left and the Nuggets sealed it when Anthony found Nene for a baseline jam with just over a minute left.

"I had it going," Anthony said. "I hit a couple of shots. Chauncey kept going to me until they stopped it and once they came over, I got Nene a dunk. So that was a key tonight."

"They were letting him play one-on-one," Denver coach George Karl said. "His jumper was going and we kind of rode a hot guy."

Nate Robinson led the Knicks with 20 points and David Lee collected 19 and 11 for New York, which shot 46 percent (38-of-83), including 12-of-33 from 3-point range.

Despite the respectable showing from the floor, New York missed its final eight shots and was a dreadful 5-of-18 in the fourth.

"I think when it gets late in the game we forget what got us in that situation the first time," Duhon said. "We had a good rhythm, good pace. For whatever reason and I am guilty

of it as well, the ball seems to stick late in games. We just have to do a better job to sticking to what got us in that position in the first place."

Coming off Friday's embarrassing 120-107 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Knicks lost their sixth straight. The slump began with close road losses against the Phoenix Suns

and Los Angeles Lakers but the second-half comeback avoided a fourth consecutive double-digit defeat.

"We have to play defense," said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, who has seen his team allow 115.5 points per game during their skid. "There is no dobut about it. I know I joke around

a lot about it but the only way we are going to win is to get better (defensively)."

D'Antoni admitted the Knicks were facing a crisis following Saturday's practice and he altered his starting lineup, putting Al Harrington on the bench and replacing him

with Tim Thomas.

Early on, the Knicks built a 20-13 lead but Denver scored 39 points and shot 15-of-20 in the second. Anthony scored six points during a 14-4 spurt that gave Denver a 59-47 edge.