Of the three leading scorers to come out of the star-studded 2003 draft, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have had the most playoff success. Carmelo Anthony, however, hasn’t had much trouble dominating those players in the regular season.
Anthony had 27 points and went 11-for-19 from the field as Denver (31-19) cruised to a 113-83 victory over James’ Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night. Anthony improved to 8-2 against James and the reigning Eastern Conference champs.
“I know (James) hates losing to me,” said Anthony, averaging 31.6 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 55.7 percent from the field in five February games after missing the Nuggets’ last five games in January because of a sprained left ankle.
Anthony has had similar success against the Heat (9-40), winning seven of nine meetings since he and Wade entered the league. The Nuggets have won five in a row in the series by an average of 11.8 points.
Anthony and Wade have each averaged 27.4 points in their head-to-head matchups, but Anthony outscored the 2006 NBA finals MVP 30-13 in Denver’s 115-89 victory on Dec. 2. It was Anthony’s fourth straight game against the Heat with at least 30 points.
Anthony could continue his hot streak against a Miami team that has lost 22 of 23 to claim the NBA’s worst record, but the Heat have made radical changes that they hope will help them snap out of their funk.
Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks made their Heat debuts on Sunday after they joined the team in a blockbuster trade that sent Shaquille O’Neal to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. Marion had 15 points, 14 rebounds and four assists and Banks had seven points and four assists in 15 minutes off the bench, but the Heat lost 104-94 to the Los Angeles Lakers for their seventh straight defeat.
“We showed good things and there were times that you could tell everyone was comfortable with everyone at the same time,” said Marion, who added three steals and three blocked shots. “We left it all on the floor. That’s all you can ask. I think we just ran out of gas at the end there, and that’s what we have to build on.”
Heat coach and team president Pat Riley was encouraged by his club’s performance, and expects it to improve as the new players get more familiar with Riley’s system.
“We got beat by a very good team,” Riley said. “We’re not a team yet. We are; got the “Heat” on the jersey. But we’re going to need to really work at this.”
Miami will face another good team in Denver, which has won five of six to pull within one game of the Northwest Division lead. Allen Iverson has averaged 26.3 points and 11.2 assists in that stretch, helping the Nuggets improve to 11-1 when he reaches double figures in assists.
This is the second-to-last game before the All-Star break for both teams. Denver closes the first half by visiting Orlando on Wednesday, while Miami plays in Chicago on Thursday.