DENVER (AP)—The Denver Nuggets never know who is going to be on the floor, just that somebody’s going to have to step up for someone else every night.
Anthony scored a season-high 35 points and the Nuggets found another way to win short-handed, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 105-95.
The NBA’s leading rebounder and second-leading shot blocker, Camby was held out of the game with a bruised right leg.
With Martin’s minutes still being managed to keep him healthy and productive, Anthony did the dirty work at both ends of the floor, going to the foul line 14 times and sinking 12. He also had six rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and a steal, all while holding Cuttino Mobley to two second-half points after he tallied 16 in the first half.
“This was a good, complete game for me,” Anthony said. “I tried to pick up some slack with Camby being out, and I went in there and played some defense.”
The Clippers had several matchup advantages with Camby on the bench, but Anthony’s uncompromising defense nullified all of them.
“Carmelo was sensational the whole game, but in the second half I liked his defense as much as I liked his offense,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I thought we had to create some offense with our defense in the second half and we did that.”
“I thought it was our worst game of the year. Maybe the oxygen didn’t get into our brains,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said after his team fell to 9-3. “It was our worst game of the season in so many areas.”
Sam Cassell, who was 6-of-19 from the floor, said: “We did everything wrong. Everything.”
Corey Maggette led Los Angeles with 22 points and added 10 boards for his first double-double. Elton Brand added 20 points and Cuttino Mobley 18. But the Clippers, who led 52-51 at halftime, never led in the second half after Denver’s DerMarr Johnson sank a 3-pointer to make it 54-52.
Eduardo Najera also picked up some of the slack for the makeshift lineup, scoring five points in an 8-0 run that put Denver ahead 92-76. The Clippers responded with a 12-3 run highlighted by consecutive jumpers from Cassell, who scored 15, to pull to 95-88 with five minutes remaining.
But Mobley couldn’t get to the basket with Anthony in his face.
Anthony saved some offensive explosiveness for the final minutes, too. His biggest points came after the Clippers had cut it to 95-91, and he added an alley-oop fast-break dunk with 1:37 left that made it 101-91.
Martin was in the starting lineup to play consecutive games for the first time in two weeks. His sore left knee still not fully recovered from an offseason operation, Martin scored 16 points in 23 minutes.
“It felt good,” said Martin, who ditched the protective sleeve that had been covering his left knee.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “People try to tell me not to look at it as a sign of weakness, but I do.”
The highlight of the night was Martin’s lay-in off an over-the-shoulder pass from Anthony, in an eight-point run that gave Denver a 64-54 lead. The Nuggets took an 86-76 lead into the fourth quarter.
That’s when Clippers assistant coach Kim Hughes, who used to work for the Nuggets, inexplicably stood up an d grabbed a live ball that Anthony was trying to save from landing out of bounds. Official Scott Foster gave Los Angeles possession as Anthony stared down Hughes and the puzzled crowd jeered.
It was about the only thing the crowd could complain about all night.
“That is a good fast-break club,” Dunleavy said, “and if you are give over turnovers, take bad shots and give up offensive rebounds, they are going to make you pay the price. They had 31 fast-break points. You can’t contain anybody when you give up those kind of numbers.”