Denver (19-11) at New York (11-17)

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  • Game info: 1:00 pm EST Sun Dec 28, 2008
  • TV: ALT, MSG
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Denver Nuggets must be eager for Carmelo Anthony’s return. His hometown team, though, can’t be nearly as enthusiastic.

Anthony, a native of New York, expects to be back in the lineup Sunday as the Nuggets head to Madison Square Garden looking to hand the Knicks their sixth straight loss.

Denver (19-11) has been without Anthony (sore right elbow) the last three games, winning two. Anthony said he’ll try to play in this contest, the opener of a four-game road trip for the Nuggets.

Anthony is averaging 27.4 points in 10 games against the Knicks (11-17), who can’t be thrilled to face one of the NBA’s top scorers.

New York has lost five in a row, allowing 115.2 points per game. During that span, Knicks opponents are shooting 41.1 percent from 3-point range and 50.7 percent from the field.

“We just have to try to keep our spirits up,” point guard Chris Duhon told the Knicks’ official Web site. “We got knocked off the horse a little bit. We just have to jump back on the horse and keep riding.”

Denver, though, has lost three straight on the road. The Nuggets were missing Anthony in their last game away from the Pepsi Center, losing 101-92 to Portland on Tuesday night.

Three days later, Denver bounced back with a win at home, beating Philadelphia 105-101 with Kenyon Martin driving for the go-ahead dunk with 9 seconds left.

J.R. Smith, who started for Anthony, made seven 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 27 points.

Chauncey Billups added 26 points and 10 assists. The veteran point guard is averaging 20.0 points and 7.7 assists in his last four games.

Anthony will relieve some of the scoring burden from Billups, and add depth to a thin frontcourt. With Anthony out, Denver’s top reserve big man has been rookie Marreese Speights.

New York also may get a starter back, with swingman Quentin Richardson hoping to return after a one-game absence due to a sprained right ankle. Nate Robinson started for Richardson on Friday night and had 26 points and 10 rebounds, but the Knicks lost 120-107 to a Minnesota team that had lost 13 straight.

Richardson was hurt at the end of practice Thursday but took part in Friday’s morning shootaround before ruling himself out.

New York also played the fourth quarter without Duhon, who received nine stitches above his left eye after colliding with Rashad McCants’ elbow before the half. He returned for the third quarter, but coach Mike D’Antoni decided to keep him out during the stretch run.

Duhon did not experience any vision problems and is expected to play Sunday.

Acquired as a free agent in the offseason, Duhon has been steady as the orchestrator of D’Antoni’s offense. He’s averaging career highs of 11.7 points and 8.4 assists.

Duhon has done an excellent job of setting up big men Al Harrington and David Lee.

Harrington had 26 points against the Timberwolves after averaging 12.7 in his previous three games, shooting 26.1 percent from the floor during that stretch. Harrington is averaging 22.9 points in 15 games since being acquired in a trade with Golden State on Nov. 21.

Lee, meanwhile, has flourished in his first season as a full-time starter, with career-best averages of 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds. He has five double-doubles in his last six games.

Denver and New York tied last season’s series, with each team winning at home.

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Sunday, Dec 28