Nuggets stay unbeaten by cutting down Nets

Down by a point after sub-par first-half performances by Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets become the latest team to take advantage of the New Jersey Nets’ woes in the third quarter.

Billups and Anthony woke up the Nuggets by leading a 44-point third-quarter assault that carried unbeaten Denver to its fifth straight win, a 122-94 decision over the victory over the winless Nets on Wednesday night.

“The first half, we couldn’t it going at all,” said Billups, who scored all 12 of his points in the third quarter. “There are not many times when Melo and I are off at the same time. But the bench came in and did a great job. Sometimes, the shots don’t go, but we just had to regroup at halftime and get the job done.”

The 5-0 start is Denver’s best since winning six straight in 1985-86. It also handed the Nets their fifth straight loss, tying the worst start in franchise history, set in 1996-97.

“We knew going into halftime that obviously Carmelo and Chauncey were going to lead the charge and that’s exactly what they did,” said Nets coach Lawrence Frank, whose team scored seven points in the third quarter in a loss to Charlotte on Monday night. “They dominated the paint and the perimeter in the third quarter and we never recovered.”

Denver hit 17 of 25 shots and outscored the Nets 44-26 in the third quarter in turning a 51-50 deficit into a 94-77 lead.

“The equalizer in NBA basketball is that the game is long and the better team usually comes out after a while,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Our two best players weren’t shooting well, but I felt pretty good about the way they came out in the third quarter.”

Billups scored the first seven points to give Denver the lead for good. Anthony, who was 1 of 11 in the first half, scored 11 of his 22 points in the quarter, which was five points shy of the Nets all-time worst third quarter.

“I wasn’t happy with the way things were going in the first half, so in the second half, I think we all wanted to pick it up in a hurry,” said Anthony, who was 7 of 13 in the second half.

Chris Douglas-Roberts had 19 points to lead the Nets, who were without All-Star guard Devin Harris and four other injured players. Eduardo Najera had 14 points for New Jersey in his first start of the season.

“Every game, including the preseason, we struggle in the third quarter,” Najera said. “I don’t know what it is but we have to figure it out. We can’t come out every third quarter and basically let the other team do whatever they want. We have to learn and stay patient. It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Former Net Kenyon Martin added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Nuggets. Rookie Ty Lawson added a season-high 23 points on 9 of 10 shooting. Nene had 16 and nine rebounds, while Aaron Afflalo had 15.

Billups, who was in foul trouble in the first half and didn’t score, hit two free throws, a drive and a 3-pointer in the opening 1:11 to give the Nuggets a 57-51 lead. Nene added two free throw and a big jam and Anthony had an alley-oop, a reverse layup and a drive to cap the 21-6 spurt that put Denver ahead 71-57.

New Jersey never got close after that.

NOTES: The Nets dressed 10 players with Tony Battie, Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes and Yi Jianlian out with injuries. … Denver’s Joey Graham missed the game with sprained right big toe. … The 22 points were Anthony’s lowest output of the season. He came in averaging a league-high 34.5 points. … Denver has scored at least 110 points in 11 of its last 14 regular-season games dating to last season. … Billups had scored at least 20 points in each of the Nuggets first four games.