Anthony, Nuggets stave off rally by HornetsJan 4, 2009 - 6:31 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Despite a huge first-half lead, Carmelo Anthony wasn't the least bit surprised that he had to fend off the New Orleans Hornets down the stretch.
Anthony scored 22 points and J.R. Smith added 11 of his 17 in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets held off a furious second-half surge by the Hornets en route to Saturday's 105-100 victory.
No big deal, according to 'Melo.
"Just another day at the office," Anthony said flatly. "We blew a lead but we won, and I'll take it. We knew the Hornets weren't going to fold."
Chauncey Billups and Nene each scored 14 points for the Nuggets, who carried over some momentum from a buzzer-beating win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
Anthony, who nailed the game-winning 3-pointer in that one, came out sizzling in the first half one night later. He scored 16 points in the opening two quarters as the Nuggets took a 58-40 lead at halftime.
Denver led by as many as 26 points in the opening half. When that lead disintegrated, Hornets coach Byron Scott wasn't the least bit shocked.
"I told them at halftime that this team would let them back into the game," Scott said.
And the Nuggets did - even if it took nearly the entire game for the Hornets to climb back. New Orleans took its first and only lead of the game, 100-99, on James Posey's 3-pointer with 1:10 left.
Anthony answered almost immediately, nailing a driving layup just 15 seconds later as Denver reclaimed the lead for good.
After Billups added two free throws with just under 39 seconds left to forge a three-point advantage, the Nuggets played some uncharacteristically solid defense on the ensuing possession.
Anthony forced Hornets sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic to drive the ball - not his strength - instead of allowing him to rise up for a potential game-tying three.
Stojakovic flung up a wild layup, which fell into the lap of teammate Hilton Armstrong after barely grazing the rim. Armstrong fired out to Posey, who could not set his feet properly and misfired badly on a game-tying attempt from the arc.
"We gave ourselves an opportunity to win, and that's all you can ask for," Scott said. "We just didn't make enough plays."
Well, they also made one bizarre play.
Nene, who corralled Posey's miss, promptly clanked two free throws, but the Hornets then threw away a chance to tie - literally.
Armstrong rebounded the miss and inexplicably fired an outlet pass to unsuspecting teammate David West - a feed that glanced off the lumbering big man and into the hands of Billups, one of the league's best free-throw shooters. Billups made two from the line to provide the final margin.
"We just kept fighting, but I feel this is a game we should have won," West said.
Chris Paul had 30 points and 11 assists for New Orleans, which had its four-game winning streak snapped. The Hornets posted an impressive 92-77 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
Despite not building off that performance, Scott sounded as if he took some positive out of this one.
"Every now and then we get to a point where we aren't playing real well and things aren't going our way and we just have to buckle down," the coach said. "We kept the faith and trust in one another and we just battled back tonight."
NEW ORLEANS 100
DENVER 105 FINAL
Jan 3 11:31 PM
NEW ORLEANS 71
DENVER 83 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 3 10:53 PM
NEW ORLEANS 40
DENVER 58 HALFTIME
Jan 3 10:12 PM
NEW ORLEANS 23
DENVER 28 END, 1ST QTR
Jan 3 9:40 PM
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