DENVER (AP)—Forty-eight hours after he couldn’t lift his arm or even his toddler son, Carmelo Anthony didn’t let the lingering pain in his right elbow keep him from scoring baskets by the bunches or handing out high-fives by the boatload.
“You’ve still got to cheer, man,” Anthony said. “I’d rather take the pain and still cheer for my teammates.”
He had plenty to celebrate in Denver’s 132-93 rout of the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.
After a slow start, Anthony finished with 23 points after scoring just one bucket in 14 agonizing minutes against Houston on Sunday night, which snapped his NBA-best double-digit streak at 222 games.
“It was still hurting out there tonight,” Anthony said. “I just wanted to try to fight through the pain.”
Chauncey Billups had 24 points, 14 assists and only one turnover for Denver (13-6), which tied the franchise mark for the best 19-game start.
Nene had another double-double for the Nuggets, who are 12-3 since trading Allen Iverson to the Detroit Pistons for Billups, the Denver native and former University of Colorado star whose homecoming has gone better than anybody would have expected.
“I think we’re heading into a good direction right now,” Anthony said. “I say all the time, he’s bringing that leadership to this team, helping everybody out, making everybody better. You look at the scoreboard, you see five, six guys in double digits, whereas before we really didn’t have that.”
Thanks to Billups’ play up and down the court, this game was never in doubt even with Anthony’s fitful start. During Billups’ 32 minutes of playing time, the Nuggets were an incredible plus-48 on the scoreboard. Denver posted 37 assists overall, outshot Toronto 60 percent to 37 percent and got 39 points from 3-point range.
“It’s just one of those games where it seemed like everything kind of worked,” Billups said. “Throughout the season you usually get two or three of those games. Unfortunately, you usually get two or three on the other side, those games where nothing really works.
“The thing is you never know who that’s going to be against,” Billups said. “When you’ve got things going against an opponent, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side.”
Anthony’s right elbow has been bothering him since training camp but has gotten progressively worse over the last couple of weeks. He received treatment on the team’s off-day and skipped much of the Nuggets’ shootaround Tuesday morning, then returned to the starting lineup.
He missed his first four shots and two of his first four free throws before sinking a 17-foot jumper that gave Denver a 47-28 lead. After that, ‘Melo was pretty much his usual self, driving to the basket for muscle points and pulling up for sweet jump shots.
“It was really good to see him get back going,” Billups said, “because if we’re going to be as good as we feel we can be he has to get going for us, and he had a great game tonight.”
The Nuggets built a 64-45 halftime lead and the Raptors were done.
“It was a bad day,” Calderon said. “Everything was bad for us.”
And good for the Nuggets.
“You can point to any starter and they all played well,” Denver coach George Karl said. “They all had their moments. … There was no foolishness in the game even when we had the big lead.”
Conversely, O’Neal ripped his team’s poor play.
“We’re going to address it as a team tomorrow. It’s embarrassing not only for us but for those who support the Toronto Raptors, the organization, the city and the country,” O’Neal said. “That should never happen. This is a business. We get paid a heck of a lot of money to play a certain way and if we think we can turn it on and off like that then we are fooling ourselves.”
That’s the fire in the belly Raptors coach Sam Mitchell wanted to see and hear.
“For me now it’s not a time to be screaming and yelling,” Mitchell said. “It’s a time to be trying to teach and reassure people. At a certain point, when you play, you’ve got to almost want to fight each other after a game like this. You’ve got to be demanding of each other.”
The 39-point difference marked the fifth-worst loss in Raptors history and it ties the fifth biggest win the Nuggets have ever had. … The Nuggets’ 37 assists are the most by an NBA team in regulation this season.