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Nuggets 117, Knicks 94
His return to Denver having gone so awry, Carmelo Anthony is returning to New York to get his ailing right knee drained.
“I just didn’t have it. I tried,” Anthony said after scoring just nine points before leaving early in the third quarter of the Knicks’ blowout loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday night.
It was Anthony’s first game at the Pepsi Center since he demanded a trade to New York more than two years ago, leading to a blockbuster deal that reshaped both franchises.
With the crowd jeering him and his knee barking at him, Anthony had one of his worst games ever at the Pepsi Center, his home for the first eight seasons of his NBA career.
“It started tightening up, started stiffening up. Some movements that I couldn’t make, movement laterally, felt like I didn’t have no pop, no power,” Anthony said. “I tried it in the second half, coming out after halftime. I couldn’t move.”
So, the Knicks went on to Portland after the game without Anthony, who’s heading across the country in the opposite direction.
“I’m going to go get it drained, get the fluid out. Get to the bottom of it quick, so I can get back on the court,” Anthony said.
Anthony might have pushed himself more than he should have in order to play in Denver.
“I was always concerned,” he said. “I was being naive to myself, saying OK. Trying to psyche myself out, ‘I can do it. I can do it.’ But there comes a point where you’ve got to figure it out and get to the bottom of it and move on.”
Looking back, maybe the Knicks shouldn’t have let him play. He returned Monday night at Golden State after missing three games with knee pain.
“I kind of rolled with what he was thinking,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “He wanted to play and we played him. The third quarter, he had to pull out. Melo doesn’t pull out of very many games. Obviously, it’s bothering him. We’re going to send him back to be evaluated.”
Wilson Chandler scored 24 points and the Nuggets led by as many as 34 points on the way to winning their 10th straight game and 14th straight at home.
This one was such a laugher that their starters didn’t play the fourth quarter.
Neither did Anthony, who was 3-of-12 shooting when he left a couple of minutes into the second half.
The crowd that mostly jeered him chanted derisively, “Where is Melo?” throughout the fourth quarter.
Not on the court and not even on the bench.
By game’s end, the chant had morphed into, “Who needs Melo?”
The Nuggets raced out to a 64-42 halftime lead with Anthony in New York’s lineup and they stretched it to 97-69 after three quarters with him in the visiting locker room.
Iman Shumpert led New York with 20 points, but the Knicks were manhandled on the boards 53-33 and outscored 62-24 in the paint.
“I like my team, and I’m proud of it,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Not a lot of those guys were here for the drama that went on here and to play with that much pride tonight I thought was first class.”
The Nuggets used a 21-1 run to drain the drama from this game midway through the second quarter when New York went almost 7½ minutes between buckets, falling behind 54-31.
“They couldn’t score and we ran by them on almost every possession,” Karl said. “It was a great energy, the building had an electricity to it. I think our team was at playoff intensity mode. I also think we caught New York in a bad place. Sometimes that happens.”
The Knicks trailed 58-28 when they lost Tyson Chandler for the night with a bruised left knee after he slammed into Corey Brewer under the basket and had to be helped to the locker room.
Anthony received a mixed but decidedly strong reception during pregame introductions — when the public address announcer accidentally presented him as No. 15, his number during his eight seasons in Denver, and not his current No. 7.
Masai Ujiri, the Nuggets executive vice president who famously said on the night of the trade, “We got killed,” called the deal a win-win Wednesday and said there were no residual hard feelings.
“Honestly, we’ve moved on,” Ujiri told The Associated Press. “Melo was great, great kid, just saw him at halfcourt and spent some time (with him). I think it worked out for everybody. The Nuggets as an organization has moved on and Melo has moved on.”
Asked if they were better without him than they were with him, Ujiri demurred.
“I can’t answer that question. It’s a tough one.”
The numbers say they are — albeit barely.
Denver is 100-57 since the blockbuster trade.
In the 157 games before the deal, they were 99-58.
Anthony wasn’t the only former Nugget returning to the Pepsi Center. He brought J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Raymond Felton and Marcus Camby with him.
During the first timeout, there was a video tribute to them accompanied by John Sebastian’s iconic “Welcome Back” song.
That turned out to be the highlight of the night for the former Nuggets.
Anthony waxed nostalgic about his return after practice Tuesday night, but he hardly recognized the team he left — and not just because they were decked out in their new canary yellow uniforms. Lawson is the only Nuggets player who was teammates with Anthony 25 months ago, but 10 other Nuggets can trace their arrival to Anthony’s departure from Denver.
Although there was plenty of animosity when the deal went down Feb. 22, 2011, time has smoothed things over. The Nuggets landed a bevy of young players, trade exemptions and draft picks they’ve used to retool their roster, and the Knicks got a bona fide superstar to build a team around.
The resurgent Knicks (38-24) are still leading the Atlantic Division. The Nuggets (44-22) are in the hunt for home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Karl said he was glad this game had finally come and gone.
“Yeah, I think it’s time to let everything go and it was probably too long in getting it here,” he said.
Heat 98, 76ers 94
LeBron James scored 27 points and Miami became the fourth team to win at least 20 consecutive games in a season, rallying to beat Philadelphia.
Dwyane Wade added 21 as the Heat needed big baskets over the final two minutes to top the Sixers for the milestone win.
Only three teams have won at least 20 consecutive games in the same season: the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (33), the 2007-08 Houston Rockets (22) and the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (20). The Washington Capitols also won 20 straight, spanning the end of the 1947-48 season and the start of the 1948-49 campaign.
Thaddeus Young had 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Sixers.
Thunder 110, Jazz 87
Kevin Durant scored 23 points, Russell Westbrook added 19 and Oklahoma cruised to victory.
Kevin Martin had 15 points for Oklahoma City, which improved to 25-8 at home. The Thunder led 29-19 after one quarter and 50-28 at halftime.
Gordon Hayward scored 20 points to lead Utah, and Enes Kanter had 12. The Jazz lost for the eighth time in 10 games, but remained one-half game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth place in the West.
Durant struggled early, recording more turnovers (6) than points (5) through the first 22 minutes. The NBA's leading scorer didn't convert until 3.8 seconds left in the first quarter and finished the half with eight points.
Durant found his rhythm in the third quarter, scoring nine of Oklahoma City's first 11 points and 15 overall to push the Thunder's lead to 32.
Hawks 96, Lakers 92
Devin Harris scored 17 points, Ivan Johnson hit a key basket and shorthanded Atlanta shook off a 20-point third quarter by Kobe Bryant, snapping a three-game losing streak with a victory over Los Angeles.
Bryant finished with 31 points, but made just 11 of 33 shots. He drove the baseline with a chance to force overtime but watched his jumper slide off the rim with 3 seconds remaining. Making matters worse, he landed on Dahntay Jones' foot and twisted his left ankle, crumpling to the court in pain.
Bryant hobbled off and Kyle Korver knocked down two free throws to clinch it.
Atlanta won for just the second time in eight games despite missing Josh Smith and Jeff Teague.
Kings 121, Bulls 79
Tyreke Evans had 26 points and seven assists in Sacramento's most lopsided victory of the season.
The Kings opened the second quarter with a 26-4 run against the lethargic Bulls to hike their lead to 34 points. It was an almost error-free first half for the Kings, who committed just one turnover and took a 65-36 lead into intermission.
The Kings shot 54 percent and tied a season low with five turnovers.
Making his first start of the season, Patrick Patterson had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Jason Thompson had 12 points for the Kings, who snapped a five-game losing streak against Chicago.
Carlos Boozer scored 21 points and Nate Robinson had 19 for the slumping Bulls, who lost their second straight and fourth in five games.
The Bulls have dropped a season-high five straight road games and have a 7-12 record since beating Milwaukee on Jan. 30.
Pacers 107, Timberwolves 91
Roy Hibbert had a season-high 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead Indiana to a victory over Minnesota.
Paul George had 17 points and George Hill added 16 points with six assists to help the Pacers.
Ricky Rubio had 21 points and 10 assists and Luke Ridnour scored 17 points for the Timberwolves, who have lost nine of their last 11 games.
The Pacers went on an 8-0 run at the end of the first half to take a 62-54 lead at halftime. They stretched the advantage to 16 late in the third quarter when George hit a fadeaway jumper and then a 3-pointer.
Rockets 111, Suns 81
Donatas Motiejunas scored a career-high 19 points to lead five Houston starters in double figures and the Rockets routed Phoenix.
James Harden scored 18 and Omer Asik had 14 for the Rockets.
Wesley Johnson scored 10 of his 15 points in the first quarter for the Suns.
Wesley Johnson scored 10 of his 15 points in the first quarter for the Suns, who lost to Houston for just the fourth time in the last 14 meetings.
Luis Scola had four points and four rebounds in his first game in Houston since the Rockets designated him as their amnesty cut last summer.
Houston had all five starters in double figures for the 11th time this season.
Wizards 106, Bucks 93
John Wall had 23 points and 10 assists to lead Washington past Milwaukee.
Wall and Wizards coach Randy Wittman appeared to exchange unpleasant words during a timeout late in the third quarter, but Wall rallied with eight fourth-quarter points to hold off the Bucks' comeback.
It was Wall's seventh double-double of the season. He also added six rebounds and four steals.
The Wizards have won three straight home games and eight of 11 in Washington.
Monta Ellis scored 26 points for the Bucks.
Warriors 105, Pistons 97
Stephen Curry had 31 points and eight assists, David Lee added 20 points and 15 rebounds and Golden State grinded out a victory over struggling Detroit.
Jarrett Jack finished with 19 points and five assists off the bench and hit some big shots late to make sure the Warriors avoided a monumental setback. They improved to 4-2 on their season-high, seven-game homestand, which ends Friday against Chicago, and remained 1½ games ahead of Houston for sixth place in the Western Conference.
Rodney Stuckey scored 22 points and Kyle Singler had 16 in Detroit's seventh straight loss. Reserve Will Bynum added 16 points to help fill the void left by Brandon Knight, who sat out with a sprained left ankle.
Grizzlies 96, Clippers 85
Marc Gasol scored 21 points, Tayshaun Prince added 18 and surging Memphis beat Los Angeles for its 14th victory in 15 games.
Mike Conley had 17 points and 11 assists, and Zach Randolph scored 13 points as the Grizzlies hung on in the fourth quarter of back-to-back games for their sixth straight victory. Memphis followed up last night's road win in Portland with a tenacious effort against the Clippers, who have lost three of five.
Memphis (44-19) is percentage points ahead of Los Angeles (45-21) for third place in the Western Conference, although the Clippers are the Pacific Division leaders.
Chris Paul had 24 points and nine assists, and Blake Griffin added 22 points for the Clippers, who won the clubs' first two meetings this season.