Oklahoma City (27-14) at Denver (23-17)

By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO, STATS Writer Wednesday, Jan 19, 2011 Tipoff: 9:00 pm EST Wed Jan 19, 2011

Carmelo Anthony(notes) claims he’s staying with the Denver Nuggets for now. Reports suggest that may not be the case.

The All-Star forward will try to ignore the growing trade speculation in an attempt to bounce back from a rough performance when the Nuggets face Kevin Durant(notes) and the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

Anthony is slated to become a free agent at the end of this season, and he refused to sign an extension with Denver (23-17), leaving the club to pursue trade options.

Anthony’s ties to New York have fueled speculation of a move there, and New Jersey has shown significant interest to get him before relocating to Brooklyn in 2012.

The potential trade involves as many as a dozen players, including Chauncey Billups(notes) and Detroit’s Richard Hamilton(notes) joining Anthony with the Nets, but reports Tuesday indicated that the exact framework is holding the deal up.

Anthony, averaging 23.1 points, continues to rebuff reports, including one stating the Nuggets granted the Nets permission to speak to him.

“If that was the case, I’m sure I would have gotten a phone call,” Anthony said Sunday. “I don’t want to talk to nobody. I’ll let the front office handle that. It ain’t my job to be talking to New Jersey, New York, Lakers, Dallas, no one. That’s not my job to do.

“I’m going to play Wednesday against Oklahoma City and then against the Lakers. Then Indiana.”

Denver could use a better effort from Anthony after he made 5 of 17 shots and scored 12 points in a 110-97 loss at San Antonio on Sunday that ended the Nuggets’ three-game winning streak.

Coach George Karl feels the Nuggets need to “keep our focus, keep on fighting through the drama.”

They’ll certainly need to against the Thunder (27-14), who are tied with Utah atop the Northwest Division heading into the second half of the season. It’s the first time the franchise has led a division at the halfway point since it was the Seattle SuperSonics in 2004-05.

Durant leads the NBA with 28.4 points per game, and he’s averaging 32.2 over his last nine meetings with Denver - including 44 in a 114-106 win on Christmas, a game Anthony missed following the death of his sister.

Durant, however, wasn’t very effective as Oklahoma City’s four-game winning streak ended with a 101-94 defeat at the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. Durant had 24 points but was 8 of 24 from the field, his worst shooting performance since Nov. 29.

His struggles included a 1-for-8 performance from 3-point range as the Thunder were a collective 2 for 22.

“It’s very tough, because we work on that a lot,” Durant said. “We got some good looks, but we just couldn’t make them. That’s the name of the game. We’ve got to continue to work at it, and we can’t get down on ourselves. We’ve got to keep our heads up and learn from our mistakes. We’re maturing and growing up as a team, and we know what it takes to win.”

Russell Westbrook(notes) isn’t having much trouble offensively, scoring 32 points in each of the last two games, while totaling 25 assists. The point guard, though, is averaging just 15.3 points and 5.6 assists in nine meetings with Denver, tallying 19 and four, respectively, last month.

Billups, who was held to seven points Sunday, scored 30 points for the Nuggets in that meeting.

Anthony is averaging 29.2 points over his last nine home games against the Thunder franchise, which has lost its last six visits since the Sonics won in Denver on March 28, 2007.

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Wednesday, Jan 19