DENVER (AP)—Larry Brown couldn’t come up with the right plan for either Denver’s best player or his own Friday night.
Carmelo Anthony sliced through single coverage en route to 25 points for the Nuggets, while Brown left Knicks guard Stephon Marbury watching helplessly from the bench over the final 6 1/2 minutes of Denver’s 95-86 win over New York.
Marbury, who said he was upset with his role in Brown’s system after a four-point night in a loss to the Lakers earlier this week, didn’t see his role change much in this one. He stayed at point guard and finished with nine points and nine assists, while spending the end of the game on the bench with a towel draped over his head.
A good strategic decision? Or simply a reminder from Brown of who is really in charge in this, his first season with the Knicks? That debate will begin shortly in the Big Apple. For his part, Marbury took this latest setback better than the one in Los Angeles.
“Whatever Coach thinks it will take for us to win, I’ll do,” Marbury said. “I’m cool with it. I wasn’t surprised to come out when I did.”
Channing Frye had 22 points and eight rebounds points for the Knicks, who finished their Western trip 2-4, which might not be considered bad were it not for the recent machinations with Marbury.
Brown explained his decision to bench the guard late, saying simply, “I just wanted to get us back in the game.”
Marcus Camby had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets, who reached the .500 mark for the first time this season.
Anthony has enjoyed his two biggest scoring nights in the last two games, this one coming after a 31-point game in a win Wednesday against the Hornets.
The third quarter was the turning point, and Brown’s decision not to double cover him made a big difference.
Running the floor and creating contact under the basket as well as he has all season, ‘Melo scored 12 points in the third quarter—including six off free throws—to help Denver turn a one-point deficit into a double-digit lead.
“It was the first time I hadn’t seen double- and triple-teams,” Anthony said. “I’ve got to take advantage when I get teams like that and get games like that. I don’t get to play straight-up like that very much.”
Brown coached opposite Nuggets assistant Doug Moe, his best buddy and former assistant with the Nuggets, for the first time since 1992. Neither man said he was looking forward to the meeting because it was hard to root against such a good friend.
After a nice pregame chat at center court, Moe took his seat beside George Karl and Brown began coaching his heart out—coaxing his young players, cajoling official Rodney Mott and trying his hardest to squeak out a win in a place where he wasn’t expected to get one.
The Knicks led for much of the first half. Then, Anthony went off. Brown defended his decision to play Denver’s best player one-on-one.
“We did a pretty good job on Carmelo,” he said.
The Nuggets won despite playing without Kenyon Martin, who has missed all or most of the last four games with a tender knee. Voshon Lenard, supposedly Denver’s biggest 3-point threat, never left the bench—coach’s decision—as Karl continued giving minutes to Earl Watson.
Denver’s only major offseason acquisition finished with four points over 17 minutes and the Nuggets, the league’s worst 3-point-shooting team, made only one from long range, giving them a total of two over the last three games.
Marbury, meanwhile, sat stoically over the final minutes, watching as the Knicks tried to trim their deficit to single digits.
New York did get it to 93-86 with 57 seconds left, but Anthony followed by getting open in the post and getting his final two points on a goaltending call. Thus ended the third straight game Marbury has been held to 10 points or less.
“It is frustrating to lose, period,” Marbury said. “I think we probably took a step backward tonight, but I think things will get better.”
Knicks F Matt Barnes will have an MRI on his foot when the team returns to New York this weekend. … Trevor Ariza played a grand total of 1 second in the first half for the Knicks. … Camby, a former Knick, played in his 500th career game.