DENVER (AP)—In his three previous games, Denver rookie Carmelo Anthony had made just 14 of 36 shots.
Consider the slump over.
Anthony scored 31 points on 12-for-17 shooting to lead the Nuggets past the road-weary Miami Heat 88-80 Sunday night.
“Even though I missed some shots the last couple of games, I’m going to keep shooting,” Anthony said. “That what I’ve got to do: shoot, rebound and do everything that I can.”
Did he mention defense?
“I want to pay more attention to the defensive end of my game,” he said. “Coach has stressed that—for me to play better defense.”
Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said Anthony has begun to excel at that part of his game.
“What I really like that he did tonight was try to dig in defensively,” Bzdelik said. “I told him he might have been the best defensive player on the floor over the last eight minutes of the Dallas game (Friday night). He has no excuses now because we know he can defend. And tonight he had seven defensive boards.”
Miami coach Stan Van Gundy also was impressed by Anthony.
“He never looks rattled,” Van Gundy said. “He gets good shots, he plays under control, his decisions are good. He has been shooting at a fairly low percentage, but tonight he was 12-for-17. We couldn’t guard him.”
Rodney White scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, helping the Nuggets thwart a Miami comeback that reduced a 14-point deficit to six.
Voshon Lenard added 18 points and Nene 17 for the Nuggets, who avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Denver shot 52 percent compared to Miami’s 38 percent.
It was the final game of Miami’s longest road trip of the season, featuring six games in 10 days. The Heat went 1-5 on the trip.
Anthony scored seven points during the Nuggets’ 8-0 flurry in the third quarter that produced their biggest lead, 64-47. Miami responded with 12 straight points, including four by Odom, to make it 64-59.
Anthony’s two free throws put Denver up 66-59 entering the final period.
Odom’s three-point play early in the fourth quarter cut Denver’s lead to 68-62, but White then scored eight points during Denver’s 14-6 run that pushed the lead to 82-68.
Miami countered with eight straight points, the final six by Jones, to make it 82-76 with 2:55 remaining.
Anthony made a driving layup to pad the lead to eight. After Odom’s basket, White hit a jump hook for an 86-78 lead with 1:51 left.
Udonis Haslem’s rebound basket cut the lead to six again, but Lenard hit a short jumper in the lane that just beat the shot clock with 30 seconds to go.
“We got behind early, just like we did in Sacramento and in Milwaukee,” Van Gundy said. “On the road, that happens to you quite a bit. It’s an NBA phenomenon. On the positive side, we haven’t died like we were early in the year.”
Denver center Marcus Camby played nine minutes in the first quarter but didn’t return because of tonsillitis.
Denver hit its first four shots en route to a 10-2 lead and a 24-12 advantage at the end of the opening period. The Nuggets outshot the Heat 64 percent to 29 percent in the period.
Nene had 10 points in the quarter for the Nuggets, including four points during a 9-0 run that made it 24-10.
Lenard’s 3-pointer gave Denver its biggest lead of the half, 27-12, early in the second quarter. Butler’s jumper and Jones’ two free throws cut the deficit to 37-27.
Anthony had eight points in the quarter, including six straight Denverpoints, to help the Nuggets take a 51-40 lead at intermission.
The Nuggets activated forward Mark Pope from the injured list and placed guard Jeff Trepagnier on the injured list with a sprained left ankle. Pope had been on the injured list all season because of patella tendinitis in his left knee. … Miami ended a four-game losing streak with an 87-85 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. … Miami is 5-19 on the road thisseason.