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'Melo leads Nuggets over Trail Blazers

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DENVER (AP)

Carmelo Anthony hurt the Portland Trail Blazers with his shooting — and passing.

Anthony scored 30 points — his third consecutive game with at least 30 points — and the Denver Nuggets beat the Trail Blazers 118-106 on Sunday night for their third straight victory.

He also had five of the Nuggets' 31 assists, reflecting the team's determination to incorporate everyone in the offense as a way to help make up for the absence of Kenyon Martin (knee) and Ty Lawson (shoulder).

"I think it's contagious, passing the ball," Anthony said. "With Kenyon being out, of course we miss him, I think that just brings us closer together as a team, especially for me. It's that time of the year I've got to start taking over, not so much scoring with the basketball, but making guys better, like I did tonight.

"Guys guys had confidence they would knock the shot down when they were open and make something happen when I gave it to them. I think that's something I'm going to have to do a lot more now that Kenyon is out."

Martin, who missed a second straight game with what has been described as chronic patella tendinitis, underwent an MRI on his left knee late last week and is scheduled to have a consultation with doctors Monday to determine further treatment. There is some concern that he could miss a significant period of time, though there has been no definitive word yet on the severity of the injury.

"I'm going to stay optimistic and not talk about that right now," Nuggets coach George Karl said, declining to address speculation about Martin's injury.

J.R. Smith added 22 points, Chauncey Billups had 21 points and Nene 14 for the Nuggets, who improved to 28-5 at the Pepsi Center, the third-best home record in the NBA behind Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Fortunately, we scored enough and we stopped enough," Karl said. "I've been saying for two years when we play with intensity defensively and pass the ball offensively, we have a hell of a chance to beat anybody in basketball.

"We've held teams close to 40-percent shooting the last three games, and without Kenyon who quarterbacks a lot of our double teams. Usually, Kenyon's the guy that orchestrates that and I thought we got it done with out him."

Jerryd Bayless' 24 points led the Trail Blazers, who saw their three-game winning streak snapped.

Andre Miller had 19 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 but the Trail Blazers still lost for the 18th time in the past 20 trips to Denver.

"We never established an offensive rhythm the entire game," said Brandon Roy, held to 12 points on 3 of 14 shooting from the floor. "Even myself, I couldn't get into the flow. We'd get close and them turn the ball over or we wouldn't execute offensively and then they would shoot the ball well."

Like Denver, Portland was short-handed. The Trail Blazers were without Marcus Camby (ankle). On top of missing Camby, the Trail Blazers learned Sunday that center Joel Przybilla, who was already out for the season, had again ruptured the right patella tendon he tore in late December when he slipped in the shower at his home in Milwaukee over the weekend.

Trailing 66-49 at halftime, the Trail Blazers cut the deficit to 79-71 with 3:31 left in the third quarter when Martell Webster hit a 3-pointer and made one of two free throws in an ensuing possession.

The Nuggets rebuilt a double-digit lead with Anthony connecting on a 20-foot jumper and Nene driving through traffic for a dunk as part of a three-point play, helping Denver take an 89-75 lead into the fourth quarter.

Portland made another run at the Nuggets, opening the final period with an 8-1 surge capped by Bayless' three-point play, pulling the Trail Blazers to 90-83 with 9:58 remaining.

The Nuggets responded with their transition game, getting fast-break layups from Anthony Carter and Billups followed with a driving layup by Smith to open a 96-83 lead with 8:29 left to play.

Again, the Trail Blazers pulled within seven when Rudy Fernandez hit a 3-pointer with 3:58 left. But Arron Afflalo made a pair of free throws and, after a missed layup by Miller, Smith hit a crucial 3-pointer for a 112-100 Nuggets lead with 2:40 remaining and Portland did not get the close again.

With Anthony scoring 19 points in the first half, the Nuggets led by 21 points and were in front 66-49 at halftime.

The Nuggets closed the first period with a 13-5 run, pulling ahead 34-21 on Anthony's 18-foot jumper just before the end of the period. Afflalo's third 3-pointer of the game put the Nuggets up 64-43 with 1:31 left in the second, but the Trail Blazers narrowed the gap by scoring six of eight points before the halftime buzzer.

Notes: Johan Petro had a game-high 10 rebounds in his first start of the season for the Nuggets. ... Portland had come in a season-high 10 games over .500. ... The Nuggets had 30 or more assists for only the eighth time this season but the second time in three games.
Tagged: Nuggets, Nets, Trail Blazers, Andre Miller, Anthony Carter, Chauncey Billups, Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo, Jerryd Bayless, Ty Lawson

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