DENVER (AP)—Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik wasn’t concerned after Carmelo Anthony struggled in his previous game. He knew the talented rookie was too good to let it affect him for too long.
Anthony proved him right.
Anthony followed one of his worst shooting nights with one of his best all-around games, scoring 23 points with seven assists in the Nuggets’ 108-87 win over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
“He’s only 19, so why overreact to things,” Bzdelik said. “He’s still going to have his 19-year-old games, but he’s also going to have his games where he’s a real pro. Like tonight.
Anthony played more like a 19-year-old Wednesday against Milwaukee, failing to score in the first half and shooting just 2-for-11 for the game.
It didn’t carry over against the Wizards.
Anthony was patient with his shots, worked the ball to the open man and drove to the basket when he had the chance. He finished 10-for-18 from the floor after hitting 11 of 46 shots the previous three games.
“Some nights I feel like I want it too bad,” said Anthony, the third pick in this year’s draft. “Tonight I hit the open shot when I got it, drove to the lane when I had it and passed the ball. When I play like that, it’s pretty hard for us to lose.”
Denver has won four of five and is off to its best start (7-5) since opening the 1989-90 season 8-4. The Nuggets are 5-1 at home after needing until Jan. 8 to get their fifth home win last season.
The Nuggets had 38 assists on 44 field goals and shot better than 40 percent (47) for the first time in seven games. Andre Miller added 15 points and eight assists, and Chris Andersen had 11 points and five blocked shots
“We played 48 minutes, probably the first full 48 minutes for the whole team,” Miller said.
Washington didn’t quite have the same effort.
The Wizards trailed by seven at halftime despite shooting 52 percent and was outhustled in the second half as Denver pulled away. Gilbert Arenas had 27 points and Larry Hughes 12 for Washington, which has lost five of seven.
“The Denver Nuggets have a way of playing that is very good and very exciting,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “They are high tempo. They push the ball at you, whether they make a field goal or a free throw. They are going to win their share of games because of the way they play.”
It started with Anthony.
After 13 ties and 10 lead changes, he took over late in the second quarter.
Anthony scored on a fast break with just over three minutes left, then took one dribble to the opposite side of the rim for a two-handed dunk.
Anthony followed with a no-look pass to Lenard for a backdoor layup, then pulled up in front of Hughes for a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left. He ended the half by pressuring Hughes into a shot-clock violation.
“Carmelo is a great player,” said Washington’s Juan Dixon, who had 11 points. “He made some great shots.”
And he kept it going in the second half.
Anthony hit a pull-up jump shot to start a 14-4 run in the third quarter and later kicked the ball out to Lenard for a 3-pointer that put the Nuggets up 60-48. He ended the third with a breakaway dunk that put the Nuggets up 83-63.
“I just felt better,” Anthony said. “My shot felt good and I felt my legs get back under me. I had a couple of bad shooting nights in a row and I didn’twant to have another.”
Wizards C Christian Laettner returned after missing three games with back spasms. He had six points and five rebounds. … The game featured three players that were named the NCAA’s Most Outstanding Player and won NCAA titles: Laettner with Duke in 1991, Juan Dixon with Maryland in 2002 and Anthony with Syracuse in 2003. … Denver F Nene missed his third straight game with a strained groin. … Denver is 6-1 when it scores 90 points, 1-4 when itdoesn’t. … Broncos WR Rod Smith and LT Ephraim Salaam were at the game.