In his third career game, Anthony put together a complete performance with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists as the Nuggets beat Sacramento 109-88 on Saturday. The former Syracuse star was 9-of-14 from the field after making just nine of 29 shots in his first two games.
“I was edgy my first two games just to get out there and start my career,” said Anthony, the third overall pick in this year’s draft. “You saw me settle down more than I did the first two games.”
Anthony struggled through 4-of-15 shooting to score 12 points in an 80-72 win over San Antonio on Wednesday before going 5-for-14 from the field for 18 points in a 102-85 loss to Houston on Thursday. He leads the team with 17.7 points per game.
“Let’s face it, he’s a young man,” Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said of Anthony. “There is a lot of pressure. Opening night it was (San Antonio’s) Bruce Bowen and Tim Duncan (defending him). The next night, Houston had the long arms and is very athletic. He’s playing great.”
Denver—17-65 last season—has already beaten two of the Western Conference’s most powerful teams. The Nuggets had lost seven of eight to the Spurs and eight straight to the Kings before this season.
The Pacers will shoot for their first win at Conseco Fieldhouse this season after dropping their home opener 93-79 to Milwaukee on Friday.
Indiana bounced back with a 103-99 overtime win at Atlanta on Saturday, thanks to the clutch play of journeyman Anthony Johnson, who is playing on his sixth team since 1997.
Johnson hit a three-pointer with 22.6 seconds left in overtime to put Indiana ahead before tying up Atlanta’s Jason Terry for a jump ball. A frustrated Terry threw an elbow on the play and Johnson calmly hit two free throws to seal the win.
“He got upset about the jump-ball call,” said Johnson, who scored 15 points for the Pacers. “That’s what a punk would do. But we got out of here with a win, and that’s all that matters.”
STANDINGS (through Nov. 2): Nuggets - 1st place, Midwest Division. Pacers - 2nd place (tied), 1 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Nuggets - Anthony, 17.7 ppg; Camby, 12 rpg; Anthony and Miller, 3.3 apg. Pacers - Artest, 18.7 ppg; O’Neal, 9.3 rpg; Artest and Anderson, 4 apg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 13; Pacers, 94-72. At Indianapolis, Austin Croshere scored a season-high 17 points as the Pacers avenged a 92-81 loss at Denver six days earlier.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Nuggets - 0-1 on the road; Pacers - 0-1 at home.