DENVER (AP)—Carmelo Anthony wandered into a deserted gym the other night to work on his wayward jumper.
The late-night shooting session is already helping.
“It’s getting there,” Anthony said. “I’m not really worried about that.”
Nor is anyone else.
“He’s not totally in a rhythm, but he will get there,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “There is no reason to force the game.”
Anthony was struggling with his jumper, shooting less than 30 percent over his last four games.
However, he finished 6-of-11 from the floor on Sunday, including a big 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter. He also had 13 rebounds and a season-high eight assists.
“Melo was great,” said Chauncey Billups, who finished with 21 points and eight assists as the team moved to 8-2 since his acquisition. “He took good shots tonight. He was aggressive. They couldn’t guard him. There’s not a lot of people that really can guard him when he puts his mind to it.”
Trailing 99-96 with just over 5 minutes remaining, the Nuggets went on a 13-0 run, fueled by a 3-pointer and dunk by Anthony, to seal their fifth straight win at home.
Denver closed the game out on an 18-2 spurt, the Bulls scoring just one basket, a 23-foot jumper by Drew Gooden, over the final 5:17.
“We made some defensive mistakes and gave them some easy baskets,” Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Kenyon Martin put the exclamation point on the game with a thunderous dunk, followed by a boisterous scream. He was also fouled, completing the three-point to put Denver up 111-101 with 2:52 remaining.
“Just being Kenyon,” he said of his yell. “I always play with a lot of energy, enthusiasm. I was just trying to do everything in my power to help my team win tonight.”
Martin finished with a season-high 26 points, hitting all 10 shots he took from the field. He can’t remember the last time he did that.
“Probably never have—unless it was 1-for-1,” he said, smiling.
Ben Gordon scored 28 points for the Bulls, hitting 5-of-7 3-pointers. He also hit all nine of his free throw attempts. Gooden finished with 21 points as the Bulls lost for the ninth time in 10 visits to the Mile High City.
“We didn’t make enough sharp plays to win the game,” Gordon said. “When it came to crunch time, we just didn’t come with a big enough number of plays.”
Derrick Rose finished with 15 points, including a dazzling move in the third quarter where he flew down the lane, faked going to the left side of the basket, brought it back to the right, avoided Anthony’s block attempt and put it in, eliciting a gasp from the crowd.
Rose’s play earned the respect of Billups, who spent some time trying to keep up with the rookie.
“He’s already really good. He’s going to be really awesome,” Billups said.
Del Negro said the Bulls’ fourth-quarter collapse was simply due to an offense that got out of sync, something that can happen with a young squad.
“Offensively, we got a little stagnant,” Del Negro said. “With their traps, we’ve got to do a better job of moving the basketball and creating space.”
Nuggets F Chris Andersen shot baskets for 30 minutes on Saturday. He’s been out since fracturing a rib against Memphis on Nov. 9. … Luol Deng missed a third straight game with a strained left hamstring. … Nene added 21 points and six rebounds. … Del Negro used to play for Karl, back when the two were united in Milwaukee in the late 1990s. … Karl spent some time before the game catching up with friend and Bulls assistant coach Del Harris.