Nuggets 100, Clippers 95

Whether he wants to play somewhere else or not, the Denver

Nuggets just can’t afford to trade Carmelo Anthony – particularly

after the wave of injuries that have hit the team.

Anthony had 30 points and 14 rebounds, Aaron Afflalo added 27

points and nine boards on the eve of his 25th birthday, and the

Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Clippers 100-95 on Thursday night

after blowing an 18-point lead.

Denver played without Kenyon Martin (left knee), Al Harrington

(left foot), Chris Anderson (right knee) and Chauncey Billups, who

was rested by coach George Karl after playing more than 22 1/2

minutes in his preseason debut on Tuesday.

”I don’t know when they’re coming back. We’re hoping to get Al

back for the regular season,” Karl said. ”We have only three of

our five 25-30 minute players, so it’s going to be difficult. I

told my staff that we have 70 minutes (to dole out), and if we

started the season today, I don’t know who would be playing those

70 minutes.”

Blake Griffin, counting the days before his official NBA debut

after a frustrating one-year wait, led the Clippers with 24 points

and 14 rebounds. Chris Kaman added 23 points for Los Angeles.

”They were just setting a screen-and-roll and throwing it into

Kaman and Griffin for lobs,” Denver guard Ty Lawson said. ”We

were just trying to get bodies on them, hit them and force them to

take jump shots. We couldn’t let them make dunks all night.”

Griffin, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, played his first game

before the home crowd at Staples Center since last Oct. 23 – when

he suffered a non-displaced stress fracture in his left kneecap

during the team’s final exhibition game against New Orleans. He

underwent season-ending surgery three months later after the knee

failed to respond to treatment and rehab, and has averaged 15.8

points and 11.5 boards through his first five exhibition games.

”He’s a monster out there and he’s a mismatch problem out

there,” Clippers point guard Baron Davis said. ”He’s a guy who

plays hard all the time, so he’s going to go out there and give

maximum effort. He’s like that in practice, too. I’m just happy for

him and happy to have him out there on the floor. He’s doing really

good in this preseason, and now we have to continue to build as a

team and make this thing work.”

Davis, playing through knee and calf issues, had seven points in

24 minutes during his second game of the preseason. He had a 16

1/2-minute outing in Tuesday’s 100-99 loss to San Antonio at Mexico

City – a game in which the Clippers blew an 18-point lead.

”I’m just working hard, trying to get better,” Davis said.

”I’m taking it one day at a time and I’m just in a building

process right now. I know my conditioning is not where it should

be, but that’s what the preseason is for.”

Afflalo’s two free throws gave Denver a 98-95 edge with 11.5

seconds on the clock. The Clippers had a chance to tie, but Eric

Gordon missed a 3-point shot with 5 seconds to go and finished with

19 points. Anthony got the rebound and iced it with two free


Denver opened the third quarter with a 13-3 run that increased

its two-point halftime lead to 70-59 with 8:20 left in the period.

The Nuggets built the margin to 79-61 on Afflalo’s two free throws

with 4:25 left in the quarter after Nene picked up his fifth


The Nuggets center was still on the bench when the Clippers

opened the fourth with eight straight points, including Davis’

first basket of the game, to slice Denver’s lead to 84-81 with 8:28

to play. Rasual Butler’s two free throws tied it at 86 with 5:57

left, and Davis’ three-point play pulled the Clippers even again at

91 with 3:32 remaining.

”We really picked up the energy as a team,” Griffin said.

”Baron did a great job at the end of the third quarter, and we

really had it going in the fourth. That’s big for us because a lot

of us are new and we’re trying to get used to each other. When you

have games like this, it just builds your confidence as a team.

It’s a lot of fun playing with this group and it’s going to be a

fun year.”

NOTES: The only Denver points in the fourth quarter other than

those by Anthony and Afflalo came on a short jumper by Shelden

Williams with 8:07 remaining. … It was the first of three games

in a four-day span for both clubs, including the annual Staples

Shootout with the two-time defending champion Lakers and Utah Jazz.

… Forward Renaldo Balkman, the first player off the Nuggets’

bench, picked up four fouls in his first five minutes on the court

and fouled out with 2:05 remaining. Teammate Melvin Ely also fouled

out early in the fourth … Butler, who set a Clippers franchise

record for 3-pointers made in a season during the 2009-10 campaign,

was 1 for 8 from behind the arc and is 9 for 28 from long range

during the preseason. … Clippers fans got their first look at

Staples Center’s new eight-sided, high-definition scoreboard, which

includes four LED video screens underneath so that spectators

sitting in the first 20 rows can get a decent view of the